Saturday, October 30, 2004
Op-Ed by James Abraham
Do it yourself has never been easier for authors One of the finest books I've read in years is Benson Bobrick's "Wide as theWaters," an account of the birth of the English-language Bible and its impact onsociety. That impact is still being felt today, in ways as diverse as the Americantradition of separation of church and state or the standard of free speechthat's codified in our Constitution. But the subject of this column is much closer to home. Recently I met a friend of mine, Henry Stevens, for coffee and conversation atthe Cultural Center. His wife, Pat, was off in one of the meeting rooms with herquilting class, and we checked in with her. As I conversed with her, I noticedHenry snapping photographs. I tried to show him my best side, but I couldn'tturn the back of my head to his camera in time. All jokes aside, several hours later Henry e-mailed me and asked me to take alook at his blog. There I was, published on the web in living color, along with Henry'scommentary on the day. The point to all of this is that modern-day conveniences such as computers,digital cameras, and copiers make it possible for any of us to become published,be it on the Web or in print. Henry's other sideline is self-publishing books of his poetry. He's able to setthe type, print it out, then bind his slim tomes in clear plastic covers with astiff spine. What does Benson Bobrick's book have to do with all of this? Bobrick relateshow John Wycliffe, John Tyndale and others used the new technology of their day— the printing press — to produce bootleg Bibles. Prior to the invention of theprinting press, books were so expensive that many available for publicconsumption were kept on chains. Bibles were usually written in Latin, and themessage contained therein was disseminated through the middlemen of the Church. The printing press changed all of that, and made the word of the Lord availableto anyone with the capacity to read. The result was a flowering of intelligent(and sometimes not-so-intelligent) intercourse. In our time, the advent of computers, copiers and other writing and printingdevices is akin to the creation of the printing press. They lower the cost ofpublishing and take the middlemen of the book-making world out of the mix. I think of that as I look at a small volume written by David T. McKee, apart-time Punta Gorda Isles resident who's also a big wig with the Ford MotorCompany. He's produced a small book about a spiritual journey. No knock againstthe book but, despite its profundity, it's not something the major publisherswould consider. But McKee's message apparently was so powerful that he chose to put his moneywhere his heart is, hence his book. It's an interesting read, in large partbecause its printed both in English and Chinese characters. Imagine. Not onlyhas this guy produced a book that offers his spiritual vision to others, buthe's attempting to bridge a cultural gap by communicating in a foreign language. None of this would have been possible in an earlier time, when the expense ofgetting published would have prohibited such a venture. True, there's a lot of junk being published, both electronically and in print,but junk has always found a way to the market. What's important is that themarket is getting more diverse as people who once had to go voiceless now havenew mediums through which to communicate their ideals to others.