Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Why Fordmania Has Got Me Thinking Ebooks

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Why Fordmania Has Got Me Thinking Ebooks

We have Generation Next to thank — not browbeat — for changing the publishing game, for good. Despite many publishing business pundits spending much of their air time and column space reminiscing of a past paradise, when they could rent videos at Blockbuster and not be forced to consider the ramifications of that new condo development around the block, I never knew the day would come when the 24-hour-news cycle would begin to play such a large role in how publishers prep new titles.

Given that I was raised by MTV and MuchMusic, I’ll be the first to admit that my attention span is greatly diminished, and my shortened attention span has affected how and why I report on news items and write books. I mutated from being a long-form-feature story writer into a blogger. Why? I know my readership ain’t trying to read mounds and mounds of dated copy these days on and/or offline. And I’m unapologetically more consumed with scribing about what my readership feel is trending now, not things that won’t exist in their later adult lives , like retirement pensions. I predicted that hip hop would decentralize itself from NYC, ATL and LA and would go fully global, and that Drake would become the biggest rapper on the planet in my 2009 book Hip Hop World, and it sold very well. Then I followed that up a few years later with a book about just how much Drake is killing the rap and entertainment game, and that book is changing the publishing game. My books have to be all about capturing the zeitgeist. Remaining relevant now has trumped any feelings of me wanting to be so ahead of my time that I get discovered in 2025 (last I checked them mortgage payments and utilities bills were due now). As an author your words can either be prescient, on trend or ancient. Are you staying ahead of the curve or falling asleep at the wheel?

All of which brings me to my next question: do books related to current affairs news items sometimes work better as ebooks? For example, the ongoing public fixation on all things Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been the gift that keeps on giving for all content creators, from tabloids newspapers to TMZ, late night talk shows David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and Arsenio Hall, all the way to the Canadian publishing industry.

When Penguin Canada announced that it would be publishing Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story by Toronto Star reporter Robyn Doolittle in March 2014 offering to reveal “shocking new revelations about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, his family and associates” it could be greeted in any one of a number of ways. It could either be touted as a brilliant move to cash in on the hype and hoopla surrounding arguably Toronto’s most famous son not named Drake. Or it could be viewed as something that readers might not want to read about in book form months after the scandal. Might this have been a great ebook to be published now, ignoring many parts of the traditional publishing cycle, including bookstore placements?

Before the crack and cunnilingus accusations and CNN Anderson Cooper specials, publishers in Toronto were already ahead of the Fordmania trend, cranking out related publishing produce. Perhaps sensing his impending implosion, House of Anansi released The Little Book of Rob Ford in 2011 capturing more than 100 of his questionable remarks in book form. Conceived the day after his royal highness was elected, this title captured some of the moronic statements mouthed by Ford over the last number of years that amounted to literary gold, such as, “If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably. That’s the bottom line.... How are women getting it? Maybe they are sleeping with bisexual men.” Likewise, last year Hazlitt, the online publishing arm of Random House of Canada, who exposed David Gilmour’s off-putting decision to not teach books written by women or Chinese authors because he’s only interested in “serious heterosexual guys,” had released The Gift of Ford: How Toronto’s Unlikeliest Man Became its Most Notorious Mayor by journalist Ivor Tossell in ebook form. Which brings me back to this ebook revolution and 24hour-news cycles. By next year we might all be suffering from Ford Fatigue. We want to read all about him right now. In 2014, some 54 year-old male political figure might email inappropriate selfies to his lover while high on heroin, or commit adultery with a naive 21-year-old college student from Saskatchewan or something. Ford’s Warholian 15 minutes might be up by the time I get around to Robyn Doolittle’s book. Or not. Maybe we’ll all be lining up outside The Bookstore to cop copies fresh off the press.

Certainly, my opinions on what’s hot or not come with some bias, only because I am a closeted futurist who believes that many subjects can become yesterday’s news, quickly, with the blogosphere raging at the speed that it does. Would I be interested in reading a book about the scandal behind another train wreck named Miley Cyrus in late 2014? Meh. Her star might have already flamed out by the time you finish reading this column. Sorry, but the title Miley Cyrus: Twerk or Die Trying (Higgins Publishing) is an ebook. Whether it’d be a good ebook, or a book at all, I have to applaud initiatives like the Espresso Book Machine. Essentially, this brilliant invention which challenges conventional book publishing cycles where it can take between 12 to 36 months to publish a book and get it to market, can produce a paperback book within minutes, much like an espresso coffee. Printing titles on demand with subject matter that has quickly captured our collective imagination, like Fordmania, is cool because it means not having to concern oneself with waiting around for months for the literary goods or waiting around for returns from bookstores, which themselves are going belly up like CD stores. RIP Toronto’s World’s Biggest Bookstore, we hardly knew ye.

Dalton Higgins is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist and radio and TV broadcaster who blogs and therefore is. His latest book Far From Over: The Music and Life of Drake (ECW Press, Oct. 2012) sheds light on the cultural conditions in Toronto that helped create the Drake phenomenon. His four other books (Fatherhood 4.0, Hip Hop World, Hip Hop, Much Master T) examine the place where the worlds of technology, diversity, hip hop and hipster culture intersect. His daily Daltoganda, musings, rants, jabs, pontifications and fire-and-brimstone blather can be accessed from his digital pulpit on twitter: @daltonhiggins5

Click here to read Dalton's archived articles on Open Book: Toronto.

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