I really enjoyed this brief article by John Herrman on why comments are a lost cause for publishers:
The online publishing narrative of the last few years, crudely, is this: Social networks are increasingly where people find things to read; people use social networks most often on their phones. It follows, then, that an increasing number—on some sites, a majority—of readers are coming to articlesthrough comments, which command them to click on or tap all manner of internet objects, including but not limited to acts of journalism. Reading news on Facebook is like reading the old internet upside down and inside out; it’s sort of like an infinite scrolling front page composed exclusively of reader comments, which are responsible for leading you, backwards, to the articles they reference. The lunatics run things now—they write the first headlines. They also happen to be your friends.
This means that publishers are not really in a position to solve the problem of comments—it’s the commenters deciding, day in and day out and with no sense of duty or preciousness, what is to be done with news. (It is to be ignored, mostly.) The comments this project refers to, the ones it’s trying to save, are comments in an older sense; words tacked onto the side or bottom of stories written by professionals for very popular websites, written for everybody and nobody at once.
A good friend of mine, the author and Guardian writer Sam Jordison, has co-founded a new publishing company, Galley Beggar Press. Here’s how they explain their goals:
Our aim is to be an old fashioned publisher for the 21st Century.
Old fashioned because we believe in the beauty of books and the printed word, in the importance of nurturing authors and paying serious attention to editing, and in the vital importance of art as well as commerce.
21st Century, not just because that’s where we are, but because we also believe in the fantastic potential of ebooks to reach new audiences, to spread our writers’ precious words around the world and to revive and revitalise books that would otherwise either be out of print or lost on the backlist.
Between us, in our lines of work, we come across the same puzzle on a near daily basis; why are so many great books not getting published and why are so many great books that have been published being neglected and so forgotten. We decided to help try to redress the balance.
They’ve already published a book to great reviews, the White Goddess: An Encounter by Simon Gough, and they’ve got a number of other books in the works, including an ebook re-release of My Elvis Blackout by Simon Crump, and a reissue of the lost American classic Cutter And Bone by Newton Thornberg, which was the direct inspiration for The Dude, played by Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski.
Take a look here.