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Liberature and the E-Book

LIBERATURE (a new literary term for me):  the type of literature in which the text and its physical representation, the way it is written, form an inseparable whole.

William Blake's works are an example of liberature:

In the essay describing it (see the link above), I found an interesting passage:

And there are others who, indeed, would love to invent something, if it were only possible. However, they believe that nothing original can be developed and we are inevitably doomed to pastiche, quotation, intertextuality, and writing about writing. This act of extreme creative despair has become a widespread canon, not only in literature and, as yet, nobody has found any antidote for this spiritual anorexia.


The majority of writers never reflect on the kind of typeface that will be used to print their work and yet it is one of the book’s component parts. It is as if the composer wrote a piece of music but the decision as to what instruments should be used was left to musicians and the conductor. This sometimes happens today, but then the composer is fully aware of the consequences (that is, of involving musicians in his creative process). However, when the writer ignores such questions and leaves the decision to a publisher, he does not do so because of an aesthetic theory he subscribes to, but because he does not recognise the importance of the question. By doing so he proves to be ‘deaf’, as it were, since the typeface is like tone in music.

[My emphasis.]

This brings to mind so many self-published authors who print their books in sans-serif typefaces, and who have really horrible covers, etc. These things do not draw a person to covet a book! The cover of a book IS important! The texture of the pages IS important! But these things are also expensive...

And, of course, there is the proliferation of e-books. For those authors who feel typefaces and covers are unimportant, or who cannot publish a book through an agent or publishing house in the normal fashion, this is the perfect medium for them (although I harbour a suspicion that their inattention to detail will be reflected in their writing). E-books are all the rage. Sitting down to read a book no longer seems to be about the quality of the experience, but only how fast you can get it done...

Basically my fleeting thoughts are these: 1) Fewer authors are being accepted by publishers, and more and more are reverting to self-publishing (acceptable, as they did this even in the middle ages); 2) The economy is becoming worse and people perceive their days speeding up, and this will create more and more e-books and the demand for them, and the "liberature" experience will become more...sanitized? Less lush?

Oh, Internet, what have you wrought?

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