Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 10, 2012

Writing and Publishing in the Digital Age

The ground beneath the publishing industry trembled in 2007, when Amazon released the Kindle and Apple released the iPhone. Digital—which had wrought havoc on the music and newspaper industries—was finally coming to the consumer market for books. Certainly digital had been reshaping reading, and much of what we call “publishing” since at least the 1970s, but for the mass market, 2007 was when the general population started to consider that “books” might come in pixels rather than pages.

In the few years since, these devices and their spawn have brought digital reading of long-form text from the realm of “it might happen sometime” to “it is happening right now,” and faster than anyone predicted. Many questions have been answered, resoundingly: Will readers read ebooks? Yes. Lots? Yes. Dedicated reading devices, or smartphones, or tablets? Doesn’t matter, as long as there is cross-device accessibility. Browser reading? See previous. Shakeup in publishing? Sorta, but the sky is still overhead.

That rapid shakeup—from print to digital buying and reading—has been massive, but it’s really only a transitional phase to a radically different future.

Just a Shift?

We used to live in a paper-based model: Publishers sent print books to distributors and retailers, who sold print books to readers, who took those books home or to work and read them when and where they liked.

We are now effectively replicating this model for digital: Publishers send digital files to distributors and retailers, who sell those files to readers, who download them onto various devices and read them when and where they like.

Of course much else has happened. Pricing structures have changed (the 99-cent best-seller, as well as the agency model), the barriers to entry have crumbled (Bowker estimates 2.8 million print-on-demand and self-published print books came into being in 2010, versus an estimated 270,000 traditionally published books; Smashwords currently distributes some 30,000 ebook authors and 80,000 titles), and the role of the publisher in this disintermediated world is in question (crime writer Joe Konrath claims he does much better without a traditional publisher, and Amanda Hocking sold more than a million copies of her self-published paranormal novel through Kindle, and then went on to sign a multi-book deal with St. Martin’s Press).

Or a Fundamental Restructuring?

But there is a greater shift afoot than just pricing and delivery mechanisms, and that is what this book aims to explore. We want to examine how digital changes the process of making a book, as well as what we do with it afterwards.

The move to digital is not just a format shift, but a fundamental restructuring of the universe of publishing. This restructuring will touch every part of a publishing enterprise—or at least most publishing enterprises. Shifting to digital formats is “part one” of this changing universe; “part two” is what happens once everything is digital. This is the big, exciting unknown.

What happens when all books are truly digital, connected, ubiquitous? We’re starting to put the infrastructure in place now, so we can start doing things with books that have never before been possible.

For those who are interested in the furture of books in the Digital Age, this book will be useful as a point of departure for thinking about what publishing can be and you can read it online for FREE!

http://book.pressbooks.com/front-matter/introduction or Buy the book by using this link:  http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920020325.do

You may want to bookmark for reference when and if you start to think about where the market is going.  This is also going to be part of Steve Meltzer’s Marketing Report and discussion at the NJSCBWI Conference in June.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. I can see some of the “positives” about the digital movement, but I’m REALLY having a hard time trying to embrace it. I LOVE actual PAPER-paged books with such a passion, most of me is living in denial at this point. I’m sure, though, that the wave will eventually hit me with such force, I’ll HAVE to accept it. I will be VERY interested to hear what Steve will be saying about this come June. Honestly, I’m always interested in anything Steve has to say 🙂
    Thanks for the find, Kathy!

    Like

  2. Terrific post. Thank you!

    Like

  3. I was intrigued recently by hearing about J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore. I guess only J.K. Rowling could do it, but she’s going digital and bucking the biggies like Amazon and Barnes and Noble while she does it. Apparently people can buy ebooks straight from her website in a format compatible with whatever e-reader they use…

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  4. Yeah, I saw that, too, and recently got the email announcing the “shop” is open. When you’ve got money and fame, you can do just about anything 🙂 I will always cherish my well-read, hardcover and paperback “Harry Potter” series, and I guess going “e” was bound to happen…

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  5. I’m offering my orples series as e-books through kindle and cannot wait to compare softcover book sales to kindle sales. Of course, my biggest fear is getting lost in the crowd, which I think is a battle all new authors face. This is a wonderful article as always, Kathy. Thanks for posting it. 🙂

    Like


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