Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Question of the Day #635

At the conference this weekend, there was much discussion about books in the digital age. How would publishing change? Would readers purchase ebooks and forgo the touch of actual pages and bound books? Would picture books become animated iphone apps? Would writers and illustrators become Content Creators?

The discussions made me think of the of music industry and all the changes it struggled through over the last decade. A lot of my friends are musicians, songwriters and music managers. And over the years, we've spent many nights discussing the demise of CD sales, the impact music piraters like Napster had on the music industry and how to adapt to the electronic age.

Unfortunately, clumsy choices and resistance from huge record labels made those changes scary for music people while they were happening. Contrarily, as long as publishers embrace the fact that change is coming, I see the electronic age for writers as really exciting. I love the idea of positioning myself as a Content Creator and instead of being confined to what fits on a page, having the opportunity to cross many platforms and create multimedia for my stories.

For example, Justin Chanda, Grand Poobah at Simon and Schuster, talked about an online serial novel in which readers get to vote on the choices the main character makes. Loser/Queen, written by bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson, is scheduled for new segment blasts every Monday through September 13, after fan voting is tallied and the author whips up new chapters accordingly.

How cool is that? I would LOVE to connect with my audience like that.

And that's just one example of how the publishing industry is embracing technology. But some other writers, at least according to what I gathered this weekend, didn't seem too psyched about the idea of change. And that's sort of sad because I think that if you aren't adaptable, you could get left behind.

How adaptable are you? What "snooze and lose" situation have you learned from?



  1. Just a comment on "e" books: we had one to try out from our local library. I hated it; Jim loved it. He reads for content, I read for pleasure. Our son Geoff has one and loves it for reading on the train in his daily commute. I believe that books in the traditional form will continue to be with us for the forseeable future. There will always be people like myself willing to pay for the REAL THING!

  2. Great topic Suzanne! Hopefully the powers that be in the publishing world will embrace the digital changes rather than ignore them, and then try to fight them. The music industry has no one to blame but themselves for the mess they are in!! As for publishing in the digital age - how cool that you can have a device the size of a small book that holds hundreds of novels??

  3. I'm in IT - I live technology and constantly embrace it. I always wonder how much longer newspapers will be around because news is out of date the moment it's printed. Books are different though; they enjoy much more longevity than "the latest news." I have to say I love the feel of books much better than a Kindle for example although I have to say I'm reading more and more in my iPhone, watching more TV and movies on my iPhone, etc... I still love the feel of a book but it won't be much longer. The snooze & lose situation I most often experience though are latest fashion trends... I always think a trend is going to fizzle out quickly so I don't bother with it only to find it's around for several years. Oh well, whatevs.

  4. Well after getting laid off from several record companies and completely switching careers, I know first hand about digital media. Companies like Apple and Intel and HP lead the way. The record companies don't need me anymore so I just switched to a career that is in demand and needed everyday....That Barnes and Noble reader is awesome and only 199!

  5. I've asked for a Kindle for my b-day...I'm going to give it a whirl. Yet, I'm also opposed in some sense to needing electricity for everything in our lives (books, toothbrushes, photo albums...) and ultimately disposable when newer technology comes out. I tend to think books are here to stay for a while - I think of collectors, or people like myself who buy books and after reading them, give them to charities to raise money. Regardless, it IS an interesting topic.

    I design e-learning programs...so I have to be adaptable. When choosing careers as a kid, this one didn't exist. When I started in the business 15 years ago, the programs were disc-based, and now they are e-based and mobile-based. It is indeed a choice of sink or swim.

  6. My eyes get tired staring at screens all day. I still love to curl up with a real book. But I know it's just a matter of time before electronic books will outnumber printed ones.

  7. We need to open our arms to everything and embrace or reject according to our imaginations, needs and comfort levels. As civilization from the begining asked "Why are you putting that good meat over the fire? You are going to ruin it."
    The people who stay in the box, stay in the box :)

  8. As you know, I love my Kindle and, although I like the feel and touch of hardbacks, but I'll never buy another one as the Kindle is so much easier to handle, to purchase books for, and is easier to hold in your hand.

    I can understand some writers bucking the obvious changes being made, but they're foolish to think they won't occur over time. And think about the trees saved.

  9. I'm so bummed we didn't meet in person! But yeah, when he talked about that Loser/Queen book I was pretty amazed. What a cool experiment.

  10. I'm a serious Kindle fan! I won't buy a p-book at all unless it's something I seriously want. I like going from book to book, so e-books make more sense for me.

    I can see myself looking at a multi-media book, especially if it's on a non-fiction subject that I'm interested in. But I can't see myself developing an m-book. I'm more of a story teller.

    Multimedia books sound a lot like interactive web sites. I can certainly see myself trying to put together a web site like that for serious fans of a book. A series like Twilight might be fun with video highlights from the movie (if they were affordable for the publisher.) But I would think too many videos and links would spoil the flow of a story if you haven't read it yet. In the case of m-book fiction, they would make more sense to me as something like extras on a movie DVD.

    Though I can see how a book that gets decided by vote would be a good gimmick, especially for teens. I suspect it is somewhat limited. It wouldn't work for my stories because I do so much foreshadowing. That being said, I've certainly taken reader's playback on things, such as which characters are stars.

    Thanks for the interesting discussion!

    I gave you an award over at my blog. Don't worry about passing it on if awards aren't your thing. Just consider it a shout-out for your blog.


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