I’ve happily embraced the concept of simplicity. Currently, my focus has been on content over packaging. The majority of my entertainment is contained within an MP3 player, a Steam subscription, and a Kindle account. In many instances I’ve forgone owning the content I consume entirely, satisfied with merely a library card that provides free access to entertainment instead.
And yet there is something occasionally so alluring about the feel of an old hardcover book in one’s hands. Reading a work in the manner its creator originally intended for it to be encountered seems fitting. My parents own first editions of 1984 and Native Son that will likely be passed down through our family for generations. I discovered both books as a youth, browsing through their den as one would a bookstore, bored as could be and searching for a way to pass the time.
Browsing has become a lost art in this new age, either because we are too poor to choose our entertainment on impulse or too strapped for time to sample a wide array of work. I can’t remember the last time I entered a bookstore or visited a library without knowing exactly what I intended to acquire. I no longer stumble across new things. I seek out what has been recommended or created by those I admire.
How do new artists find audiences in times such as these? I’d propose collaborating with an established artist, fostering a relationship with a key member of the press, or blanketing potential consumers with free samples of one’s work. And yet I can’t confidently say those tactics would be successful. I’ve passed over hundreds of free books at conventions such as BEA and have rolled my eyes at press releases disguised as articles countless times. Finally, why would an established artist have any inclination to foster a relationship with an unknown fledgling creator? Neither the music industry nor the publishing industry is known for its altruism.
With consumers buying that which they are already familiar with or fond of—or that which someone they are fond of informs them of—is it any wonder that corporations pay top dollar for celebrity spokesmen? That we settle in for sequel after sequel? That we cling to the same creators for the lion’s share of our entertainment? I admit that I am guilty. I am going to buy Grand Theft Auto V, and read 1984 for the fifth time, and I scrambled to locate Yeezus the moment it was leaked.
For a society claiming to be on the cutting edge, we abhor trying anything new. Our adoration lies in creature comforts served in novel ways.