Wednesday, June 8, 2011

As We Venture Into the Digital Forest

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We in the industry have been saying it for a while: the face of book publishing is changing. It’s looking more like a web page than a book cover. Consider the rise of electronic publishing houses like Booktrope, which is not a vanity press, and experimental sites that make community-building between readers and writers a new phase in the publishing process, such as Richard Nash’s still-in-beta-stages Red Lemonade. On the bright side, this market that started fragmenting two decades ago may have finally found a way to put books and the readers that want them together again, and they’re doing it more efficiently and cost-effectively. On the downside, are we drowning in an ocean of storytelling noise? How can one even decide what to read any more, with more choices than we can reasonably process? Some days even I, a book lover and reader, want to shut all my books, lock them in a room, and run away to silence; they are making as much noise as other media. I’m divided. What say you? As a reader are you happy with the shifting sands, or would you like to travel back in time?


Chris said...

I don't think the sky is falling. While the Kindle has shifted the earth under mass market paperbacks, not everything will migrate to eReaders or eBooks anytime soon (I don't think). It's the same with all the experimental Web-based "books" or that neat but strange all-immersive experiential fiction that some are doing (I have a friend who has built an entirely fictional Web site, complete with sponsors and news feed, for his latest piece).

A niche market is a niche market, no matter if it's virtual or analog. In other words, there's no reason to panic about technology. It still works for us, not against us.

Yes, the publishing world is changing quickly, but the stakeholders in the existing market structure still have a lot of pull and a lot yet to do and to say. In spite of what we may have been hearing, publishing is still publishing, paper is still paper, and hard work is still hard work--authors, smart ones, will use all the available tools to build their careers whether they selfpub, go digital, or whatever. It's a great time to be a writer.

Erin Healy said...

I agree, Chris. The sky's not falling, and I'm not opposed to virtual books. But I do occasionally feel overwhelmed by the volume of choices. It's a great time to be a writer. It's a little bit of a frustrating time to be a reader.

readgreatfiction said...

Erin, this is precisely why I started book review blogging recently. I am an unpublished author still working on my first book, and in my education into the publishing industry I realized that there are probably many really good authors out there who's books just go by the wayside and aren't noticed. There's an awful lot of junk that's showing up as well. I thought since I read 3-4 books/week I could help others not have to wade through the sludge. The problem remains that it's a lot easier to get a review copy from traditionally published authors. Although I would love to review new/unkowns and give them some publicity, I can't afford to buy all their e-books either.

On a lighter note, the biggest problem I see with the e-pub industry: book signings (excuse me, but would you sign my kindle...)

Erin Healy said...

Kristen, thanks for the great service you're providing to fiction lovers. A couple other problems with e-books: (1) It's harder to spy on what others are reading, and (2) One word: editing. Friend and editorial colleague Eric Stanford (on Twitter @ericstanford)shared this amusing article on the subject from an Australian author: