Reflections on the Future of Print Publishing"/>
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Steal this Book:
Reflections on the Future of Print Publishing

Antoine Wiertz (1806–1865), “The Reader of Novels,” 1853

1,059 words

Counter-Currents Publishing was not intended to be a non-profit enterprise, but like many media ventures in the digital and internet age, it is turning out that way.

The internet has forever altered book buying habits and has thus transformed the publishing industry. Before the internet, I carried a list of out-of-print books in my wallet. It was a long list, printed in tiny letters. Whenever I went to a new city, I would haunt the local used book stores, searching for items on my list. When I went online in 2000, I went to Bookfinder.com and found every book on my list within an hour, from used booksellers as far away as Cyprus and Australia.

In the pre-internet age, when I saw a book that I might like to read some day at a good price, I would snap it up, just in case I might never find it again, or find it at such a good price. Because of scarcity—a scarcity of information more than of the books themselves—I bought now and hoarded for future use. With the internet, however, I know that I will almost always be able to find a book, so I only buy books that I want to read right now. Thus in the last 12 years, the number of books I have purchased per year has dropped considerably, even as the number of books I have read has gone up.

Digital technology has also transformed publishing. In the past, books were printed from physical plates that had to be prepared and stored at some expense. Thus corrections were expensive and there was a strong pressure to make print runs large, which entailed large shipping and warehousing costs and also posed significant financial risks if a book did not sell. This also discouraged publishers from taking chances on new authors and books on esoteric topics. Furthermore, because second print runs were large and expensive as well, books would eventually go out of print if publishers did not feel they were worth the risk.

Printing from digital files reduces typesetting costs and makes corrections easier and cheaper. It makes possible printing books in small batches, which lowers the costs of printing, shipping, and storage. It also allows publishers to bring out riskier or more esoteric titles and to keep them in print indefinitely.

The invention of eBooks and eBook readers is also making the printed book obsolete. EBooks are cheaper to buy than printed books, and the marginal cost of producing new ones is virtually nil, meaning that the profit margin is extremely high. They can be purchased virtually instantaneously and delivered virtually instantaneously and free of charge. Furthermore, your eBooks do not take up shelf space, collect dust, or require back-breaking labor to move.

Antoine Weirtz, “The Reader of Novels,” detail

Unfortunately, the combination of digital media and the internet also makes it a lot easier to steal books. In the olden days, I imagine that some people were arrested with books stuffed under their sweaters just for following Abbie Hoffman’s advice to Steal this Book. But today, with online file-sharing websites, one can steal eBooks with virtual impunity.

The only people who will not steal digital books are those who have a strong moral commitment to capitalism and private property (in all candor, such people are not our preferred audience) or people who want more than just the information in the book: they crave the physical book itself because they are wedded to the particular physical medium or because it is rare, beautiful, personalized, or otherwise unique.

At Counter-Currents, however, we are not too concerned with people reading our books for free. There is a very simple reason for this. We want to save the world, and we publish materials that we think will contribute to that end. And if we really believe that’s what we are doing, then we should not try to create artificial scarcity just to make a buck. Nor should we delay the release of a text for months until it can come out in print. If something is worth publishing, it is worth publishing right away. That is why we have our webzine: to make world-transforming ideas available immediately, for free.

There are some of exceptions to this rule. First, free online publication was not part of our agreements with the authors of our existing fiction titles. However, it will be for any future fiction works. Second, in the interests of readability, I sometimes serialize longer works. Third, I also try not to publish too many things in the same day, which entails some delays. Finally, I hold on to some works to commemorate particular dates, which I think enhances their impact. (There were also a couple of pieces in North American New Right vol. 1 that I just overlooked: I thought I had published them online, but I hadn’t.)

Because Counter-Currents is committed to making world-altering ideas available immediately for free online, we have to depend on the generosity of donors to keep us going. That is why we are having our current Summer Fundraiser. If you have not made a donation yet, please consider doing so now. We are trying to raise 25,000 by August 11th, and we have a long way to go.

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& North American New Right

 

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18 Comments

  1. Posted June 18, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I’m going to have some thoughts on the e-book phenomenon for CC in the near future…

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      I really look forward to that.

  2. Brandon
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    What happened to The Prison Notes by Codreanu? I would gladly buy a hard copy of that, but it seems to have sold out. Will it be coming back?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      It sold out. It will be reordered.

  3. ReJedding
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    What were the books on your search list?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      That was a long time ago. In the last incarnation of the list, I remember a couple pieces of rare secondary literature about Wagner, Schopenhauer’s Parerga and Paralipomena and the four volumes of his Manuscript Remains, and also a volume by Michael Oakeshott (who turned out to be a major disappointment).

      • glom leader
        Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        What had you expected from Oakeshott, and why didn’t he deliver?

        • Greg Johnson
          Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

          Oakeshott’s conservatism is essentially anti-intellectual and relativistic, as he seeks to delegitimize any attempt to construct or reconstruct a society to aim at a larger end, like the common good. His view of liberal education is essentially the discovery that man is radically free to adopt or reject values, which undermines the very existence of education and culture in general, since such a doctrine of radical freedom means that everyone can posit that he is good enough just the way he is. It is form of nihilism which destroys the necessity of growth and self-overcoming. Oakeshott was an eloquent, tweedy, conservative version of the Last Man. Worthless, really, for conserving anything cultural, much less the race that brought it about.

      • Morgan
        Posted June 18, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        Greg, I too was disappointed with Oakeshott. After years of hearing his name uttered reverently in the same breath as Scruton [and Cowling from the better read conservatives] I was expecting to fashion several arrows for my intellectual quiver from Oakeshott’s works. Instead I found incredibly well written relativism. His entire political ‘theory’ is based on the dislike for the modern Rationalists answer to the question of “what is the goal of political order” which he writes is “the imposition of a uniform condition of perfection upon human conduct”. As such, he thinks doctrine [not just ideology!] in politics is dangerous and conservaties need only rely on received opinion and tradition. Not only does he leave tradition etc undefined, but he does not even allow for the evaluation of its merits, lest one lapse into the imposition of a doctrine… Beyond worthless.

  4. MOB
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Permalink
    • Greg Johnson
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for these. I have a large file of images of people reading, and another file of people writing. I had not see the Guy paintings however.

      Wiertz’s is the only painting I have found of someone stealing a book, however!

  5. White Republican
    Posted June 20, 2012 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    I’ve been thinking that I should look more closely at publishing models, particularly in relation to the following issues:

    1. The nature of cultural and political solutions;
    2. Jacques Ellul’s ideas concerning “political facts”;
    3. Roger Mucchielli’s ideas in relation to legitimation and delegitimation;
    4. The application of the concept of the “impolitical” to metapolitics;
    5. What kind of orientation and discipline is appropriate for metapolitics;
    6. The structures, activities, and media required for agitational and educational work;
    7. François Duprat’s publishing model and what form it could take today (including theoretical, editorial, media, and business models);
    8. What measures and heuristics should be used (how should we measure and interpret results, how should we assess possibilities and probabilities?).

    I don’t know if I’ll get far with these things. I’m more of a simple facho than a serious theorist, but I might be able to identify, adapt, and promote a few ideas that deserve to be more widely known and used. Right now, I’m dealing with questions rather than answers, general intuitions rather than articulate ideas, interesting ideas rather than a mature body of theory and practice. As I’m likely to extensively draw upon French writers, I’ll need to carefully summarize and adapt their ideas, as I can’t expect many readers to follow up my references to them and their works.

    A problem with cultural and political solutions is that it takes much time, effort, and skill before they can visibly work, before they can secure the confidence and support of many people, before they can be converted from abstract ideas into concrete political facts. Such solutions entail collective effort over a long time despite considerable inertia and opposition; they are only gradually and partially successful; they take a long time to become truly operative; they require the constant application of effort and skill; they are vulnerable to the loss of direction, momentum, and morale. It’s easy to get bogged in mud or to skid off the road.

    In these matters, one can’t be guided simply by ideology, doctrine, technique, or a fixed program; one needs to apply what the ancient Greeks called metis, a superior grasp of one’s environment, of one’s possibilities of action, of adapting and applying strategy, tactics, and techniques. As Heraclitus said, everything is in flux, and one can’t cross the same river twice.

    Proponents of solutions are often overly enthusiastic, impatient, uncivil, uncritical, and unresourceful. They regard their solutions as self-evidently correct, sound, and superior to others. They are quick to suspect and accuse others of bad faith or stupidity for not endorsing and supporting their particular solutions. They fail to ask themselves why their solutions should be self-evident, or reflect that they may have not been self-evident to themselves not that long ago. They fail to understand that if their solutions are to work, they entail patient and skilful work in breadth, depth, and detail, a work of continuous extension, adaptation, improvisation, education, and correction.

    The previous sentence might make some people think “this sounds dreadfully complicated” — which leads them to think that I’m making things more complicated than they are, or that they should delegate or abandon these things to others. I think it requires the development of good technique and problem-solving skills at all levels of a movement. Most people should focus on mastering techniques, a smaller number on mastering tactics, and a smaller number on mastering strategy. Everyone should work in their place, doing the work they do well, confident that others are doing the work they do well. The organization and culture of our movement should favor the effective cultivation and use of distributed information and distributed metis (concepts I should elaborate later with reference to Friedrich von Hayek and James C. Scott). A principle of organization should be to put work within the view and the reach of people, to give them work that they can do and understand, to give them a stake in and a sense of responsibility towards a collective enterprise.

    The development of solutions requires forms of organization and culture that are both relatively closed and relatively open, forms incompatible with a big tent as well as a sectarian approach (“the circus and the monastery”).

    Big tent organizations are overly open. Their premise is that people who are more or less on the same side should agree to work together, but they cannot establish the unity of strategy, tactics, and techniques necessary for uniting and building an organization, they are inherently dysfunctional, and they are unable to reform themselves. They are like a broken vase that cannot hold water regardless of how big it is.

    Sectarian organizations are overly closed. They preserve their unity through isolation and stagnation. Their members may practice a form of ideological Calvinism in which they regard themselves as the elect and outsiders as the damned, in which case one can say that they are predestined to fail.

    Big tent and sectarian organizations alike are sterile. They often effectively demobilize and demoralize members. They waste resources rather than create them and use them wisely.

    But can we even talk of organizations today?

    We need forms of organization and culture that are oriented towards developing a high degree of effectiveness and influence by cultivating a high level of dedication, skill, discipline, and activism on the part of members. This approach might be said to be relatively open with regard to the audience, relatively closed with regard to members. This approach enables a movement to maintain its identity, independence, and initiative. It involves a definite strategy for communication and organizational development.

    Something that strikes me in reading White nationalist media — using the term “White nationalist” very loosely — is a feeling that it is rootless and aimless. There are many White nationalists of real merit and ability, but their work often seems to be lacking a proper metapolitical or political orientation and discipline, rendering it ephemeral. The problem may be excessive individualism, intellectualism, and apoliticism within White nationalist culture.

    The comments on websites and forums suggest that many White nationalists are individualists more than they are racial nationalists — “petty bourgeois anarchists,” to use François Duprat’s term. They may be quite intelligent, learned, and articulate, but they fail to use their qualities wisely, productively, and responsibly, and they ultimately do little but generate a fog of words and ideas. Aimless and undisciplined people often use their intelligence to serve folly and to frustrate rather than advance the common good.

    We need to create a school of thought and action that can replace anarchy with polity.

    • Greg Paulson
      Posted June 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Right now, I’m dealing with questions rather than answers, general intuitions rather than articulate ideas, interesting ideas rather than a mature body of theory and practice.

      You seem to be implying questions are of less importance than answers. I beg to differ. Questions are far, far more powerful and important than answers in my opinion. Besides the vital importance of the habitual questions you ask yourself to your resilience and success, in my experience questions have been far more influential on others and myself than answers. If you repeatedly ask yourself a question seriously, with enough intensity, your brain will start coming up with answers to it. I’m not saying that answers aren’t important, because they are. What I am stressing is the importance and power of questions.

      • Jaego Scorzne
        Posted June 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

        Well said. Old Men have many answers but few questions. Thus new discoveries are made by the young who have the opposite. As is said in the Village: Questions are a burden to others. Answers a prison for oneself.

      • White Republican
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 5:36 am | Permalink

        It wasn’t my implication that questions are more important than answers. Aside from this qualification, I agree with everything you’ve said. The issues I’ve raised above call for creative and flexible thinking rather than reliance upon received opinions or dogmatic prescriptions. Such thinking involves an ongoing process of raising and answering questions. As these questions are very expansive and have no simple answers, one needs to carefully establish a framework and methodology for addressing them, as well as to have or cultivate good habits for thinking and writing about them. In these matters, answers are often in the nature of working hypotheses, and these hypotheses must be constantly tested.

        I particularly like the following quotation in James Alexander’s article, “Vilfredo Pareto: The Karl Marx of Fascism”:

        “‘To seek!’ — a word of power. In a sense, a nobler word than ‘to find.’ With more of intention in it, less of chance. You may ‘find’ something that is false; but he who seeks goes on seeking increasingly, always hoping to attain to the truth. Vilfredo Pareto was a master of this school. He kept moving. Without movement, Plato said, everything becomes corrupted. As Homer sang, the eternal surge of the sea is the father of mankind. Every one of Pareto’s new books or of the new editions of them, includes any number of commentaries upon and modifications of his previous books, and deals in detail with the criticisms, corrections, and objections which they have elicited. He generally refutes his critics, but while doing so, he indicates other and more serious points in regard to which they might have, and ought to have, reproved or questioned him. Reflecting over his subject, he himself proceeds to deal with these points, finding some of them specious, some important, and correcting his earlier conclusions accordingly.”

        That is what one calls rigorous thinking.

  6. Posted June 20, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Très bonne illustration, bravo !

  7. Jaego Scorzne
    Posted June 20, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    The weakest link is the human eye. Reading the old fashioned physical page is easier on it and will continue. And of course, many old works wont get online to begin with. Also why should we get completely attached to one medium? Kind of risky in case of a EMP power outage or Enemy takeoever….

  8. White Republican
    Posted June 21, 2012 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    Another issue I should have listed above regarding publishing models are ways to contain costs and add value to media. Many White nationalists seem to think largely in terms of containing costs — things are done on a “quick and dirty” or “cheap and nasty” basis — but this approach involves false economies of time, money, and effort. It is necessary to add value as well as contain costs.

    It is not enough to use modern media that reduce the cost of producing and distributing media (such as the internet, software for producing media, and printing on demand). These media do not really “level the playing field,” as is sometimes said, although they definitely lower the cost of entry to the playing field. Enterprises such as Counter-Currents and Arktos might not have been able to enter the playing field without these media, but these media do not guarantee the long term success of these enterprises.

    When the internet was fairly new, quite a few White nationalists wrote of it as if it would deliver victory to our cause. A few people still seem to subscribe to this view, which assumes that we only need to publish our ideas to topple the anti-White system by demolishing its founding myths. This view seems to ascribe a mystical power to “the truth.” But, as Pontius Pilate reportedly asked, what is the truth? There is such a thing as truth, but “the truth” seems to be thought of in terms of a Platonic essence that just happens to coincide with one’s own beliefs. But it often seems that everyone thinks they’re in the right. Faith and indifference are far more widespread than uncertainty and knowledge.

    This view also exaggerates the power of new technologies and fails to put them into their proper context and perspective. The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg was only one factor that made the Reformation possible, and it did not determine its course. Incidentally, I doubt that the early Protestants would have been so superstitious as to think that the printing press would somehow providentially deliver victory to their cause, given the low rate of literacy, the competition from rival schismatics and the Catholic church, and the political and military nature of the struggle. They would have understood that they could not even hold their own ground without strenuous work.

    The word is not enough, but it is a good beginning.

    To extend the metaphor of the playing field, we need to raise our game. This is where it is imperative to add value to our media. We need to raise the quality of our media if we are to be truly competitive. This is both a cost and an investment. If we are to have truly effective media, we will have to pay for it. Quality involves many things — e.g. the range of content, the cultural quality of content (“cultural” is preferable to “intellectual” or “scholarly” in this context), the frequency of publication, and the quality of editing, proofreading, design, and printing — and all of this must be paid for in terms of effort and money.

    There seems to be a deep-seated prejudice against the idea that some White nationalists should be paid for their efforts in order to enable them to maintain their efforts. I see no evil in this, as long as such people follow an ethic of professionalism rather than careerism, as long as their work delivers real benefits, and as long as funds are administered prudently and responsibly.

    Readers of Counter-Currents can probably think of writers they’d like to read more of. They should appreciate how much effort goes into writing articles or books of a high quality when asking for more from particular writers. People who have completed a university degree might be able to form some idea of the time and money such work can involve from personal experience. Those who haven’t can look at the references or bibliography of a scholarly book, and consider how much time and money it takes to merely identify, obtain, and read the works referred to. Thinking, researching, and writing is hard work, at least if one takes such work truly seriously. Really good work in these matters is rare and valuable, and it deserves proper recognition and reward.

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