Friday, July 2, 2010

Self-Publishing (John Milton)

John Milton on self-publishing (Wikipedia)
The first systematic defence of one’s right to publish, John Milton’s self-published Areopagitica of 1644, identified three areas of tension, political, business, and academic, that render self-publishing highly controversial.

Survival of an ideology-based state hinges on its tight control of ideas, which is impossible to affect if self-publishing is allowed: “it is of greatest concernment in the Church and Commonwealth, to have a vigilant eye how books demean themselves as well as men … I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous Dragons teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.”

Business-wise, a viable option of self-publishing undermines the entire business model used by publishers, “publicans that have the tunaging and the poundaging (i.e., taxing) of all free spoken truth,” in which publisher wedges himself between the author and the public, and uses his position as marketplace’s gatekeeper to take most of the profits generated by sales of a book.

And finally, self-publishing flies in the face of the notion of professionalism, which acknowledges only the credentialed authorities in a given subject-matter as permissible contributors to the public debate and public instruction. As to the non-professionals, “What need they torture their heads with that which others have taken so strictly, and so unalterably into their own purveying”?

Source: Print On Demand, Wikipedia (


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