Dear Dead Authors of Classic Literature,
While we value your contributions here at life as we know it, we have decided to change our platform to focus on short-form video instead of long-form books. Therefore, after hundreds of years of employment, we will no longer be using your services.
Yes, it’s true long-form books have become a mainstay of life as we know it, but we believe they’re no longer performing well with our target demographic of people aged 2 to 95 — either that, or we’re desperately trying to find ways to make more money.
Did our readers love your piece about the charming pre-teen, Lolita, or the lengthy, book-sized essay about Jane Eyre and her endless pining over Mr. Rochester? Of course. And to our long-time dead employee Leo Tolstoy, we truly thought War and Peaceand Anna Karenina were a total laugh riot. But we have to think strategically and monetize to meet our business goals… we think.
So, please, pack your things; we’re letting you go.
We simply don’t believe there’s any way for you to convert your talents to video. For example, James: What sort of stock footage could we possibly use for Ulysses? Where the hell does it even take place? We haven’t finished reading it because we’re too busy churning out #content.
And, sure, while “We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves” sounds really nice and all, Mr. Joyce, that doesn’t really flow well with our short-form approach. How would we even fit 700 pages of your work into a 30-second video that resonates not only with our audience, but with the companies we’re getting ad revenue from? It’s almost as if we should keep your long-form literature just the way it is so that our audience gets the most out of it. But that seems pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it??
The other matter is: It’s too hard to get ads into actual books. We tried shoving them between the pages, but people just throw them out or use them as bookmarks. We also tried making the ads in the novels interactive, but that used a lot of color ink and batteries, so we ended up ruining a lot of books.
Also, Mrs. Plath, The Bell Jar is too depressing for our advertisers. We don’t want to challenge our readers with things like suicide or nuance — unless it’s with short, succinct video that will perform well and please our stakeholders even if no one that sees it actually reads any of the video’s captions.
And we hate to tell you this, Mr. Salinger, but nobody wants to see a caption — in a cool, bolded San Serif — the words DON’T EVER TELL ANYBODY ANYTHING. IF YOU DO, YOU START MISSING EVERYBODY in a quick Facebook video. Though we agree that that text, laid out over B-roll of ducks on a pond, would be pretty striking.
Look, what we need is moving images that people, even if they try to scroll past, will not be able to not watch. It’s too easy to close a book — we’re losing viewers when they’re barely a few pages into the first chapter.
More importantly: Money. We need money from our advertisers and we don’t care about our audience. What we do care about is making videos that are not long, that have very few words, and that absolutely cannot handle complex topics that novels like Heart of Darkness tackle. Because that’s what sells, we’re pretty sure… based on the algorithm that we think we understand. So, no, we don’t want your big ol’ books.
Anyway, what are we supposed to do? Leave each book as-is and let people enjoy the entire thing? That’s antithetical to social video. Plus, how do you upload a book and make it show up on a screen? The other thing is, what are we even doing? Can you tell us? You seem smart.