So it’s no real secret that the publishing world is in need of some serious revamping or it will soon go the way of the music industry. Borders is on the verge of bankruptcy. Publishers are trimming themselves in, sticking to what they know will sell even if a lot of it is crap, and agents are accepting fewer and fewer submissions. Which means it’s even harder than ever for new voices to break into the market.
But I’m not going to complain about that. That’s not what this post is about precisely. What I’m thinking about is…what if we could re-envision how publishing works?
The publishing industry is digging its heels in, in protest against e-publishing, and when it does go along with the times, it merely converts books into a format readable by digital readers. But then I read this Wired article (http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2011/02/geekdad-opinion-the-future-of-childrens-ebooks/) that poses the question: what if we can think differently about the format and function of books? What if we can harness the power of technology to create a whole new medium for exploration and interactivity? The author speaks specifically about children’s books. You should read the article, but if you don’t get a chance to, he outlines several ways we can eschew the limitations of books to make them even better learning tools and springboards for creativity for children.
And it makes me wonder…why just children’s books? Why not books for adults too? For example, I love blogging because I love the way I get to play around with words and images together, how I can make them flow and support each other, and tap into the beautiful and the interesting and the poignant in ways that are both visual and verbal. But we don’t have that in books for adults, not unless you wanna’ pay big bucks to publish photo books. What if we could use e-readers to provide words and images together as part of the reading experience, in a way that’s financially viable for both the producer and the consumer?
I also love blogging because it’s more easily digestible. More and more these days, we don’t have the time (ahem, and maybe attention span) to devote to entire books like we used to. (I mean, we do and we don’t, but definitely it can be hard to find the time to commit to a full-length book.) However, I’ve never personally been into short stories. I almost never read collections of short stories because, honestly, if I know a story is ending in a few pages, I don’t get sucked into the characters. I don’t emotionally commit.
But what if we could use e-books as a way to bring novellas to the fore? Stories of in-between length. Stories that you can pick up when you know you have an hour to kill while the roast is in the oven or are waiting at the doctor’s office. They’re still long enough you can get emotionally invested in the characters, but short enough you don’t feel put off by picking them up because you don’t have time. They could even be tagged by estimated reading time.
You could also right-click on any word or phrase and have a dictionary or Google search pop up if you wanted to look into something more. And you know how you might highlight favorite or memorable quotes? What if you could “like” them and it automatically tweets the quote or sends it to Facebook? What if it notifies the author that that quote spoke to you, and you could even comment on it? And, what if, with one or two clicks you could recommend it to all your contacts (or just specified ones), and with another click or two, they can purchase a copy themselves? Or you can order a print or purchase a downloaded copy of a photo? I mean, as long as we’re dreaming here, why not?
I’m thinking daydreaming about getting into self-publishing someday. Yeah, it’ll be hard and it’ll definitely mean a smaller distribution than traditional publishing (if I were ever to make it in that world). But I’m really liking the idea of having much more control over my final product. I would love if I could have a say about what the cover of my book might look like, the fonts used, and how the book, as a finished art piece looks in its entirety, not just the words inside. No middle men. Just author and consumer. And the book, as a whole, represents me. Not a marketing committee. Independent. Accessible. And better for the environment. (Think of all the trees we could save and all the gas we wouldn’t have to consume!)
So maybe technology isn’t quite there yet. But if I do self-publish, I could at least toy with the idea of doing an e-book that is of whatever length I want it to be, and I can include both words and images of my own design. That could be a start anyway.
What do you think?