On Changing Gears: A Farewell to Publishing?

Publishing has been awesome. But it’s like it was too awesome to be true. It was like a love affair that, incredible as it was, simply wasn’t meant to last forever.

Something had to change, and my quarter-life crisis (Yes, I was having a crisis. I hid it so cleverly, didn’t I?) was about what that something had to be. Based on the paths I was considering and praying on, I was getting myself ready to write a post entitled either “On Changing Gears” or “On Selling Out.”  The latter post would have been if I became a slightly well-paid editor for the communications department of some big auditing or IT firm. Thankfully, I haven’t sold my soul just yet. So “Changing Gears” it shall be.

What on earth am I on about? I’m going back to school. This fall, I’ll be starting my graduate studies for a Masters in Information Studies from the University of Toronto.The reasons are several:

1. The need to broaden my horizons, career-wise. It’s really hard to find full-time work in book publishing. Internships are great, but after a point it’s hard not to start resenting oneself for being yet another overprivileged twentysomething working full time for a pittance.

2. My parents were hatin’ on me for being such a smart aleck and not having a Masters degree. That’s how awesome they are. That’s how blessed I am.

3. I do believe publishing is important, and books are too, and I don’t regret a single moment of the time I spent studying publishing and working in it. But let’s face it: the industry keeps failing the noble ideal of putting out authentic, original, quality content. Publishing is not dying, but it’s definitely flailing. There’s not only the transition to eBooks–there’s considerably shorter attention spans that cannot withstand the length of a book. Hence, there’s the decline of an audience of book readers as people turn online to be informed, inspired, and most of all, entertained. (I’ve talked about the irrelevance of traditional publishing from a writerly perspective here.)

As good as it feels to bash book publishing for not always being a good content filter and pruner, I don’t mean to pose my course of study in opposition to it. It’s about a blurring of boundaries, not a stricter delineation of those boundaries. Which leads to my next point:

4. Publishing is just one form of information dissemination. This reason was a huge factor in my personal statement for my application to the program. Nowadays it is much harder to be somebody because of writing something; one must be someone before they are published. Plus, forward-thinking people recognize that content-sharing is far more important.  And to be enrolled in a course of learning focusing on the classification of information has a thrill for me. I feel like it’s more relevant to the challenges we face today.

Also, although I love books and have a genuine passion for the role of publishing, I sometimes feel like a fraud. I don’t nearly read as much as any publishing professional should. My tastes aren’t nearly as eclectic as a book nerd’s should be. This is an issue I have beat myself up about, but rather than continuing to do so I can extend my love for the books I do read to love for the process of curating information in general.

So. How will that change affect this blog, my online presence, in all its glory and tweetiness?

Some things won’t change. I’ll still do book reviews about Islam and do the Islamic slants on books not directly related to Islam. I’ll also keep talk about the writing and creative process, and strive to cover pretty much anything that has to do with Muslims and publishing. If my course of study lends itself to the nature of this blog, great. If not, no problem. I’ll simply be an information scientist by day, the ghost of my former bookish, writerly self by night. And if the impulse to go on a whole different tangent altogether is strong enough, I’ll simply start another blog, assuming of course that I decide that sleep and a social life is something I can do without. (Joking, of course.)

I may no longer be able to stay as current with publishing trends as I would like, but my foray into the industry has been more than worth it. I’m going to explore options in freelance manuscript evaluation and eBook creation, and I’m I am still very open to discussions and questions regarding publishing, especially when they relate to the word in a larger sense and not just its literal papered, inked, and bound definition.  What I wanted to make clear in this post, however, is from here forward I will no longer be talking about publishing as one who is currently in the field. I’ll simply be someone who has studied it and has had enough experience to have a good idea of where books come from.

Time to get back into a student frame of mind: assignments, readings, projects, late nights. I’m both nervous and excited.

Let’s see how it goes. May Allah pave the path for better things for all of us.

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