It seems that, in the same way that literature is invading the internet, one ‘bookslut.com’ at a time, so the Internet is coming to bookshelves. Case in point, I will address what will certainly be one of next year’s bestsellers.
The LOLcats book.
The editors of the popular “I Can Has Cheezburger” blog (hosted here at WordPress.com) have chosen Gotham Books to produce a print version of their ‘animals-with-hilarious-chatspeak-captions’ gimmick after a two-day auction during which, as I understand it, publishers fought for the rights to get this thing into Barnes and Noble. With the publication of this material, what started as a message-board mining blog will complete its evolution from weird hobby into legitimate franchise. The candid kitten pics have already having launched a clothing line and a popular Facebook application, both of which establish an “I Can Has Cheeszburger” presence outside of the blogging community. I would even venture to say that if you’re an American under twenty-five with an Internet connection that doesn’t make mystical noises, you’ve at least looked at a ‘LOLcat’ jpeg and wondered what was funny. It’s no wonder that the book-spinoff was an item that more than one publisher was enthusiastic about getting a hold of.
The process of transition between ‘blog’ to printing press will certainly be an interesting one to watch (this is coming from someone that hates the word ‘interesting’ along with all of its ambiguous classroom connotations) because of what it represents for the future of publishing as well as what it tells about the nature of blogs. A community creature by nature, a ‘blog’ — while, in theory, authored by one specific voice or conjoined group of voices — entails the opinions of not just the ‘blogger’, but of the audience. The cause/effect relationship between Speaker and Hearer takes place on a public forum, and nearly instantaneously. The exchange of information that happens on a blog is always like an inside joke, whether it takes the form of providing offbeat humor, like I Can Has Cheezeburger, or not. Each blog exists for the people that didn’t click ‘x’, and decide instead to keep reading the screen, to scroll down with the mouse, to perhaps type in the address another time, on another day, because some part of what they learned was interesting. Blogs are new often, like a newspaper, but they are directly aimed, like an underground periodical, and they are forms of media that can’t really be about making a living, so they are like letters and phone calls. Blogs are a hybrid of what magazines used to be and what the internet means, now, and making a book to buy out of one means changing things about the form that people like.
On the other hand, it is a low-risk endeavor. Through hit-counts and comment numbers, it’s easy to determine whether or not a blog has prime market appeal. Enough people visit I Can Has Cheezburger enough times to assume that some of them, a good portion perhaps, actually want to display some of its trademark images on coffeetables in their future living rooms in Williamsburg. Like other blogs before (ex: highly successful PostSecret anthologies I & II) a cleverly designed hardcover edition of the website’s familiar interface will serve as a welcome conversation starter (LOL-inducer?) among the Internet-ite. Though it may not possess the same charms of call-and-response energy that the original media form offered, it’s still the same material that garnered fans in the first place. There’s no chance that this book is going to flop.
The questions I am asking as a result of this information are these: 1) Can it be very long before Perez Hilton publishes a ‘Best of’ collection of Paint-modified pictures? and, 2) If blogs can make money off of books, can maybe, one day, books make money off of blogs?
Perhaps they are already. As we’ve discussed in Critical Nonfiction class, it is the bloggers that are keeping the spirit of book-reviewing breathing. Could it be that as a result of these easily accessible, nonpartisan blurbs providing “consumer guides” for the serious literary consumers that exist, people are more likely to buy books from smaller publishers, like Graywolf and Ashahta? It’s word-of-mouth- that has always given hope and bread to the smaller presses, and maybe while the coffeehouse crowd is being pushed out of their niche by the Starbucks crowd (which is a quite different thing), they are taking to their Macs and saying what’s got to be said about good fiction and poetry just as often, and just as tangibly. I mean, I really don’t know.
In any case, I thought it was appropriate to blog on our first literary blog about blogs, and since I was first, I hope you will forgive me.