You are viewing writerjenn

flower

The future is coming!

You can't go anywhere these days (including my agent Nathan Bransford's blog, the comment thread on Editorial Anonymous, and the latest issue of the SCBWI Bulletin) without hearing about e-books and electronic publishing and how reading and publishing will continue to change.

I don't know how things will go, but I've made some guesses, based on the technological changes I've already observed in my lifetime. Frankly, I've tried to keep myself informed but not fret too much, because the world will go where it will go. If I'm lucky, there will still be a place for me as both a reader and a writer.

So, for what it's worth (not necessarily much, as I have neither a crystal ball nor the inside track here), these are my speculations on what the future could look like, the roles we could play, and some of the reasons I think this way. I start with readers, and move through a chain of people.

I'm also starting with the assumption that a story is a downloadable text (whether downloadable to a dedicated e-reader or to a multipurpose handheld computer).

Readers. A reader wants a story. But just doing a computer search will yield thousands, maybe millions of hits. How to choose? The reader may have a favorite author site to go to, but how does the reader find new authors? And is it really convenient to click around to dozens of different author sites?

The internet is a huge place, and people like their information to be packaged, funneled, prioritized—whatever you call it. They like centralized, trusted locations. That’s why “hub” places such as eBay, Amazon, and Google exist. The key to electronic book sales, like the key to traditional book sales, is likely to be in this funneling process.

Just for fun, let’s call the hub sites that a reader might visit “bookstores.”

Bookstores. They might have every book ever written in downloadable format, but all that information doesn’t fit on one screen. Prime spots—the home page, the top of search lists—will feature the most popular material, the material of highest quality, the material with paid placement. Let’s call the people who vet this material, edit it, and pay for its placement in the bookstores “publishers.”

Publishers. They vet work for quality, edit it, negotiate its placement on bookstore sites, market it to bring more eyeballs to the work, provide antipiracy and rights protection. For multimedia, they could bring together people of different skill sets (writers, illustrators, designers, etc.).

Designers and illustrators. We might not have book covers anymore, but an attractive image (akin to a book cover or movie poster, or even just an avatar) will help sell a book in the virtual bookstore. Designers can also select fonts and any other visual or auditory effects that are part of the electronic book.

Agents. They would bring new talent to publishers and negotiate artists’ deals with the publishers in various media (audio, video, text, translation, adaptation, etc.).

Writers. They would generate creative text (or scripts, for video works). If their material is much in demand, they are likely to have an agent and work through a publisher, and to have prime placement on the hub sites (aka bookstores).

Writers may also be able to pay to upload their material to publishers or bookstores, but that pay-to-post material would have lesser placement in the bookstores and would be more difficult to find. Writers could also post content to their own sites for free, but would need to find their own ways to drive traffic to their sites.

Brick and Mortar Stores. Could sell paper books for those who still want paper. People are likely to prefer paper books as gifts for a while yet, and to prefer hard copies of books they consider special. Shopping has a social and tactile aspect that people may still want, even as online commerce increases. The stores could also serve as social hubs: places to gather, discuss books, have snacks and coffee, meet fellow readers, buy book-related items.


While I'm talking technology, I'm going to link to Brian Kell's post on how technology has already changed the writing and querying process, because I think he makes some excellent points.

Comments

What a great attitude you have! :-)
Thanks! It's been born out of necessity. There have been so many changes in my work life since 2000 (layoffs, uncertainty, plant closing - then plant staying open, etc.) Things like that force you to realize that adjusting to a changing world is imperative if one is to survive. It's a short leap into my writing life for me. If I want to continue to write and be a viable, relevant author - I will have to be adaptable. We all need to be!
Right. And yet many of us still long for stability and security when we know that everything changes. Strangely enough, I think I'm getting more flexible as I get older.