Faber Should Follow EMI

The big media story of the last few days has not been about an author or a movie - it has been about Steve Jobs, EMI, and the opening access that is being afforded to those who wish to download and acquire music ("tunes") from the Internet.

I have long been interested in three things - poetry, books and new digital media, and their intersection. I feel that the UK giants in poetry and book publishing - such as Faber & Faber - have so far missed the boat, in terms of what they could do to move more strongly and dynamically into the online market. If poetry is the new rock and roll, those who publish and market it need to note the succesful models of those who use the Internet wisely to distribute rock and roll (indeed poetry). I stand ready to receive an email from them to advise on what they might want to do next.

In the meantime, not holding my breath, let me offer a free preliminary bit of advice, in the form of bullet points:
  • Faber should put all their poetry book content online, as of 2007

  • They ideally would make it free to browse like The Guardian

  • They could sell individual poems for text dowload, for phones, like songs

  • Faber would continue to sell print versions of all the same books

  • They should also begin to publish an array of younger and more innovative poets, edited by a variety of fresh editors, alongside their enviable and impressive list of more mainstream figures

I believe that having the Faber poetry back catalogue completely online (from Nick Laird to Simon Armitage, Wallace Stevens to Sylvia Plath) would draw new interest and attention. Those who genuinely love paper books would seek them out, ordering online to have hard copies. Younger readers would discover a new world of poems. Much as the impressive Salt Publishing website has become a mecca for readers of poetry, Faber's site would become a central location for discovery, discussion, and indeed, purchase. Combining more innovative and fresh models with the more traditional approaches of old would no more disrupt the Tradition than Eliot's work did - in fact, as Eliot himself argued, each new work simply realigns the whole canon, in new, vital ways.

EMI, Apple, and other major brands and companies are stretching how they think about media and delivery systems. London's tradition-bound publishing industry - during London's Book Week and April's cruel month - should start to think of how to reach the next generation of readers and writers, with truly new and innovative ways of using the net.