This weekend I've been at the Hay Festival, and last night I went to the launch of Unbound. Attempted one-line encapsulations of Unbound so far include "crowdfunded publishing project," "Kickstarter-Byline hybrid" and "'democratic' publishing venture". To me it's just a really good idea.
I guess I should say that I know these people. I knew about the idea before it was officially launched. So yes, I have a vested interest, in a way. I should also say that it isn't really my place to talk about publishing, about the need for innovation in a stale industry or the need to adapt to changing technologies and tempos (though there is that). But I love Unbound and I want to tell you why and I want you to love it, too.
Here's what I know:
It's exciting to see writers get excited about writing, and readers get excited about reading. And last night people were excited. People continue to be excited. This is good.
As a writer, everything about Unbound makes sense. It feels sustainable and uncluttered. Like maybe you'd just be writing something because you want to write it and people want to read it. And maybe you'd be writing in the first place because what you want is to write and to make a living - whatever that happens to mean to you - from writing - whatever that happens to mean to you. And you'd cut out this heavy, sloppy layer of distraction: the voices (both external and internal) saying what genre is that, exactly? Is it fashionable? Is it marketable?
I think Unbound could encourage authors to use the online space in a way I feel they should be using it but maybe haven't always: as a space for sharing. As a space for interactive creation, even.
I don't mean to say that I think every author will do this or that I think every author even should do this. But the thing is, I like looking at the artistic process. I'm interested in what the web has done to expose it, or at least to make it exposable. I want to play with this idea, and I want to see other people play with it too (remember when I wanted to post my half-formed, impulsively written 'novel' on Tumblr?). I don't know if Unbound is precisely the right mechanism for this, but I think the author's shed could be the start of a movement towards creative openness, towards adding a layer of exploration, engagement and exposure to the act of writing a book. And this aspect of Unbound has more than just the obvious potential to transform the publishing industry and the profession of writing: it has the potential to also transform both the creation and the consumption of literature.
I can see this being dangerous for my bank balance, if rewarding for my mind. I've already supported a few projects (Jonathan Meades' book about places sounds especially delicious) and the idea of patronage is so compelling that even if I ignore (as best I can) the writer-me, and the me that knows some of the people who had this idea and who have helped to make it happen, I still want Unbound to succeed, because I want to see what happens next.