Site Updated: 16 January 2007
for the new Benjamin Franklin Press
by Benjamin Franklin
I beg your indulgence for a few observations from the hereafter.
First, I would ask, what has happened to the kind of books that used to light up our days and minds in America and the rest of our world?
I will first set out the problem, as I see it, and then propose a solution.
From the perspective of publishers today, the problem, I see, has been designated as that of the crisis in "midlist" books by an excellent report financed by the Soros foundation for the Author's Guild (see www.authorsguild.org/miscfiles/midlist.pdf). From the perspective of history and human evolution, however, the challenge is much larger and more fundamental.
Before our American revolution, which I was privileged to help launch, there were two Americas and two larger worlds.
One was the world of the Tories and of top-down control by absentee greed and the privilege of entrenched inequality.
The other was the world that George Washington, Tom Jefferson, Tom Paine, and many other good souls besides myself sought and fought for—a world that might offer the chance for a better life for everybody.
After 200 years to establish this great vision, to the dismay and anger of those of us who fought and in many cases died for it, we see again the split into the same old two Americas—and the same old larger worlds of rich and poor globally.
Two percent! What has been done to our revolution? I read that two percent of the richest people in America and globally control over 90 percent of the money in all the rest of the world, while billions starve and die!
Publishing and the Widening
of the Split into Two Worlds
Amid great frustration, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and others up here have been focusing on the moral and political disaster of the Bush years and how America may reclaim its very soul and good name again in the world.
Out of my experience as primarily an editor, publisher, and scientist, I have taken it upon myself to consider what can be done about science and publishing. For here again, with distressing links to politics, we find the mounting disaster of two Americas and two larger worlds.
On one hand, thanks to the abiding vision for our species at its best, a hardy and noble handful of writers, editors, publishers, and agents still push for the dedication of “the old days” to quality and truth.
But increasingly negating them are the Tories of your time and the compression of the media into control by an ever smaller handful of regressive men motivated solely by greed, to whom our beloved book world is merely another commodity, as cattle for slaughtering, trees for clear-cutting, or poison for relabeling and sale as food.
Books instead of Bullets and Bombs
In my time, in what was still then the wilderness for most of the New World, we cherished our books and our libraries as the weapons of revolution. Those of us to whom history was a lesson book, and both past and future the realm of a greater vision, staked our lives and fortunes on a belief in books more than on bullets and bombs.
To us it was beyond question evident that for thousands of years it was book publishing that drove the advance of the educated mind, which drives the vision of the future, which in turn drives human evolution.
This was the conviction of Gutenberg, of Voltaire, of Diderot—of Madame de Stael, Madam d'Epinay, and all the other great women who formed the French Salons. It was also, if I may say so humbly, the conviction of and goal for myself for publishing in America. But today, this cherished world for the free mind and voice is being driven under by the rise again of this vision's polar opposite almost wholly driven from on top by profit and ideology.
Out of my experience both as a publisher and as a scientist attuned to evolution, what I see ahead is planetary suicide unless this situation be changed. For if your living world continues to ever more surely slide into the grip of the ancient “powers that be,” their mounting control of the media—that is, radio, television, newspapers, and increasingly of the greatest distress, book publishing—threatens to check in place, or drive earth backward, rather than advance human evolution.
The Book Lovers Revolution
Through our monitoring of earthly activities, we hear it said that your amazing internet will replace the increasingly regressive stranglehold of a degraded print media upon the human future.
If I may be permitted an observation from the perspective of the so-called “inventor” of electricity, what I see is that the internet, like flame and kindling to the log, serves wondrously to fire up and get the vision going. But the book in print provides the log for the fire.
In contrast to the impermanence of all other media is the handy look, feel, and traditional power of the book to go beyond the tragedy of what happened in the 20th century to radio and television to reach the book-reading and book-loving educated critical mass that can force leadership to go forward — rather than backward — in human evolution.
A historic function for the internet, I am convinced, will be to help launch the Book Lovers Revolution!
This is the critical task—to rebuild the American mind, to reconnect the American and the world mind with the best rather than the worst of our past, to regain that higher stream of vision and aspiration that good books have driven ahead for thousands of years now.
This is the mission of the Benjamin Franklin Press.
This is the mission I invite you to share by joining The Friends of the Benjamin Franklin Press
Benjamin Franklin Press
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