the digital revolution

This article Jason Pinter (though, previously this was attributed to Jessie Kunhardt) has a point, but he’s not really saying anything that we didn’t know. What he doesn’t address is the ways in which ebooks ‘could’ expand the reading market. Not only in the obvious ways – providing easy access (distributively) to texts, portability, searchability, the ability to attach notes – but also in less-obvious ways such as the ability when reading non-fiction to access pictures, maps, recorded sound, video even. More fundamentally, he doesn’t seem to have considered how much of the problems books may be having might be due to the fact that they are seen as the very ancient form that he lauds. (As do I, but then I, perhaps like you, am a confirmed reader and so value its very antiquity).

The current world of books seems to me to be too much focused on commercial considerations and not enough on the reader and the reader’s reading experience. At a time when diversity and ‘customer’ choice has exploded exponentially in other media, in books there is a narrowing down – the Dan Browns of this world come to mind… At a time when all the old monolithic systems of the various media are collapsing – when the limitation on the means of production, the production costs and the distribution constraints are all diminishing – books seem to be retreating in the opposite direction – stuffing up their traditional production systems with ‘blockbusters’, many of dubious quality. Instead of presenting the reader with untold riches, they present her with a few, grey offerings that her grandmother might well have scorned *grin*

ebooks could unleash a tide of creativity – a renaissance in writing… and the readers might well respond to this renaissance with joy and even relief.

when Jason Pinter says: “More readers — that’s how we save publishing. So get on it.” – what he is talking about – ebooks – could be the very salvation he is urging us to find.

8 thoughts on “the digital revolution

  1. As Pinter implies, the success of the book – in whichever form – stands or falls with the willingness of people to read.

    As for digibooks being free and putting publishers out of business… What I think is that there will be such a vast amount of material on offer (basically, each idiot and his grandmother can make their writing available) that people want to have a ‘place’ where they can find the books of the ilk they like, get expert advise, etc. For all practical purposes these places would be called ‘shops’, and one may well have to pay something for the privilege of their services.

    Another way this may work is that people will get the idea that “e-books from this source, or with imprint are of the quality and genre that I like”. That source, or imprint, will then be for all practical purposes be a publisher (who will pay authors to generate material, and ask a fee from the customers).

    Obviously, it’ll not be as simple as that, and the mechanics involved will be different (distribution, physical shops, disappear – or changed into ‘books & coffee’ places, like the video rentals are now ‘DVD and ice cream’), but I don’t think it’s going to be a free for all – there’ll be just too much supply, and people just don’t want to wade through piles of stuff before finding something to their like…

  2. “e-books could unleash a tide of creativity”

    There’s already fanfic communities which fit this description to the t. Though I’m aware that fanfic travels beaten paths, and might therefore not be as creative as a completely novel work.
    However, the success of ‘more of that which I like’, and indeed of the blockbusters, also signifies that the larger audience do not really want ‘something new’.
    Likely, 80% of the people will still go for the Harry Potters, the Dan Browns and the Helmet Books. It’s the 20% other people who will be able to find what they want, in stead of being left out in the cold.

  3. I am going to blog about this at another time… Here I will merely say that e-books may well provide a new freedom for writing… and that all the Dan Browns of this world demonstrate is that the publishing industry is playing safe… Books have to compete with an ever increasing plethora of ‘easier’ media – the only way they are going to survive is by playing to their strengths – NOT the lowest common denominator…

  4. You never know – there’s always the chance that Apple will create just enough of a shift in thinking to bring people back to this media. As far as I can tell, none of the current batch of providers are bringing the community into this new expression. I can imagine globally-available annotations being done in some Social Facebooky kind of way where each section or paragraph even can have associated with it annotation and comment – you can choose to see your “friend’s” annotation or a broader group – and comment yourself – which then is made available to others. And there is surely more scope for creativity here. We’ll see…

    1. I had thought about annotations, but generally either for personal use, or with a view to providing, or being provided with, a whole set of annotations in the way of a ‘talk through by the director’ some films have on dvd… Your ‘social’ take on it is rather excellent!

  5. Did you see that Amazon.com sells the Kindle now also to customers outside the US? I’m tempted.
    I’m afraid, ‘though, that if I buy a Kindle now and then like the Apple tablet better later on, then all the books I bought for the Kindle will not be transferable and stuck forever on that device.

    1. yes… I’ve been following this. I’m a tad dubious about the Kindle… especially about the fracas over the copies of “1984”… I am certainly not going to commit to anything until I’ve seen Apple’s tablet… Ultimately, we, as readers (and writers) need to fight for an open format for e-books – we can’t have books being locked into any proprietary format…

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