Mr. Lydecker is a rich aristocratic writer in 1940s New York. An enchanting woman named Laura, who works for the Wallace Flow-Rite Pen Company, approaches his restaurant table to ask for a product endorsement. Lydecker is appalled. He protests that he's a respectable author who uses goose quills not new-fangled technology.
This is a scene from the film Laura. The Oscar-winning movie, based on Vera Caspary's crime novel, shows a time when writers could afford to be snobs and cigarettes made people look sophisticated. Things change. One can guess what stick-in-the-mud Lydecker would have thought of Amazon, Kindle, and the like. We authors tend to be nostalgic, if not somewhat elitist.
When Gutenberg's revolutionary gadget initiated mass publication, many book lovers had concerns about publishing for the masses. Faster, wider distribution meant less quality-control. Maverick William Tyndale, who whipped out a popular edition of sacred scripture, was executed by traditional publishing gatekeepers. (That's right New York literary cartel: you're the equivalent of the old-school Vatican and I'm claiming the solar system doesn't revolve around you!) Yet, the presses rolled on. Today, noone reading a Bible, Gita, or Koran on the bus gets the death penalty, even if its a cheap paperback full of misprints rather than an elegant leather scroll.
A publishing wave is now hitting the beach (and much shitty writing is hitting the E-reader fan). Surfing this wave is difficult for many authors, but reversing the tide is an impossible, unhelpful daydream. We writers must embrace our destiny. Let us fight to preserve ancient ways that are truly sacred but not struggle so hard for "what was" that we miss a chance to make "what is" the best it can be. Artists who live in the past also die there. Those who move forward will author the future.