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A number of converging trends are focusing attention on the intersection between book authorship and digital technologies (The Economist 2014). Steadily dropping prices and new high-resolution screens on devices like Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad have made publishing digitally without seeking to print in book form appear more feasible. At the same time print on demand services (POD) are growing rapidly, lowering the cost to authors and publishers of printing and distributing works that would previously have only been feasible to distribute online (The Economist 2010). As a result, organizations like Toronto-based Wattpad, Amazon’s CreateSpace and Lulu have sprung up to help would-be authors take advantage of these new opportunities. Traditional publishers have also started to take an interest in authors like E. L. James and Hugh Howey who started by writing online (Hardwick 2014).
Pierre Bourdieu mapped the complex and symbiotic relationship between literary authors, publishers, agents and the reading public (Bourdieu 1996 ). He noted then that, “one of the central stakes in literary (etc) rivalries is the monopoly of literary legitimacy, that is, among other things, the monopoly of the power to say who is a writer.” (Bourdieu 1996 , p. 219) He suggested that the artist is made by “the whole ensemble of those who help to ‘discover’ him and to consecrate him as an artist who is ‘known’ and recognized (Bourdieu 1996 , p. 167). In the last few years, new technologies may be undermining the power of agents, publishers and booksellers to act as “gatekeepers”. Existing scholarly studies of literary publishing in the US and UK (Thompson 2010) and in Canada (Lorimer 2012) have been published too early to analyse whether such a shift is occurring and how it is playing out.
This paper will provide a preliminary overview of the changing nature of the literary field in Canada. It will be based on in-depth qualitative interviews with Canadian authors who are taking advantage of these new opportunities on one side and with both traditional book publishers and the new ‘on demand’ publishers on the other.
Drawing on digital divide literatures and insights from these initial interviews I hope to initiate a more nuanced debate around the much-heralded potentials of digital technology to provide new outlets for Canadian cultural products.
Bourdieu, P 1996 , The rules of art: genesis and structure of the literary field, Polity Press, Cambridge.
Hardwick, C 2014, 10 Best Selling Self-Published Authors, viewed Dec 21 2014, <http://www.therichest.com/expensive-lifestyle/money/10-best-selling-self-published-authors/?view=all%3E.
Lorimer, R 2012, Ultra libris : policy, technology, and the creative economy of book publishing in Canada, ECW Press, Toronto, ON.
Thompson, JB 2010, Merchants of culture : the publishing business in the twenty-first century, Polity,