Writing, books and the future of reading - Part 2 of a long essay
(part one appears under category of the same name to the left of this post)
The Internet and other new technologies will have far deeper and broader effects than simply enabling the broad availability of books in online bookstores.
Disruptive technologies will change the way books are created, marketed and consumed. Widespread availability of information will change the way we interact with information and each other. Some of them include:
Digital Printing – on demand and short run create a new production and consumption system – which I call “publish global print local” and that can also be described as “any book any time.” Furthermore, you (as writer or reader) are now able to create any book you might want to design for yourself from a menu of book components and at any time you want them: i.e., the ability to “make your own book”
This enables a new concept of community based books – where there is interactivity between authors and readers, thus engendering changes in the definition of who has authorial voice and who is the consumer. Then where does a publisher or editor fit in to this process - there is no doubt that the flood of unedited, unprocessed thoughts and ideas cries out for the editorial hand. But in a new book economy, how and by whom this critical function is performed and perhaps more importantly, paid for, is yet to be determined.
Digital technology and electronic books – we are at the cusp of significant changes in technology that will alter the way books are conceived and distributed for millions of readers. It is just a matter of time. Until the Ipod and Itunes came into being as if delivered from on high (no, just Steve Jobs at work) no one had solved or could solve the riddle of digital music. At some point in the very near future, some one (not likely to be a company we know today) will deliver the perfect device with an equally compelling distribution platform, and the world will be forever changed. It does not matter how soon this will occur, although it will be sooner rather than later. When it does, the traditional print book business will be in disarray, and the publishing landscape will never be the same. Readers who want traditional books in traditional containers will always be able to get them (even so - we have printed so many books in the past twenty years that we could stop printing books tomorrow and no living reader would run out of great books to read between printed covers!).
Once the definitive and truly “e”-book does arrive, millions of us will want one, and millions of us will be happy to make the switch from reading books in traditional bound books made of expensive paper to reading in purely digital forms. Or we may simply be driven to it by the new economics of a carbon neutral economy. Our brave new electronic world awaits.