I just found this, thanks to my friend Eva's link to a page with excerpts from Herta Müller's poems and new novel -- and much else in English about contemporary German literature. Jürgen Neffe: The disembodied book - signandsight
I'm convinced that Neffe is right: a book needs an author, but an author doesn't need a "book" as we've known it up to now. That is, a bound block of paper pages. His essay has got me thinking about my own work: three novels (one just finished, two older ones never sold) and a collection of short stories (published long ago and now barely available). Why not publish these myself?
The reason I've hesitated is that I feared that, with out the imprimatur of a reputable publishing house, nobody would read them.
But -- Why can't I become the reputable publisher? This means more than just promoting my work, though it implies that too. YouTube, FaceBook, blogs, etc. can put titles and blurbs before your eyes, but that's not enough. The main thing is to build a reputation for putting out words worth reading. I've already got a start. There must already be at least two dozen people who expect that from me. Actually, if everybody who bought any of my books remembered my name, it would be a more like tens of thousands -- but I don't suppose they all do. If I can interest some of them to read my new novel or my about-to-be expanded short-story collection, and they recommend them to others, I'm off to a good start. Not riches or fame, probably, but readers and conversation partners.
I'm serious, folks. I have already exhausted my list of potential literary agents for going through the old, obsolescent route (selling to print publisher). Two are still pending (they've got the book or a sample and are supposedly considering), and I'll give them a couple of more weeks to respond. If (as I expect) they say "no", I publish myself. Not on paper ("print-on-demand" strikes me as a technology that was obsolete at birth), but on any of the emerging Internet vehicles. We don't need to let all that old publishing apparatus get between us.