Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Friday, June 01, 2012

A Writer's View of the Future

What does the future of publishing hold, and how will authors deliver their works to readers in the near and distant futures. Those of us who expect to live and write at least another ten years should prepare ourselves for whatever form writing will take, what we will have to know, and what tools we will need.

It seems that almost every year new technologies emerge that enable new media for content delivery, media that were unimaginable not long before. Today's media are e-readers of various forms, and today's content is the e-book. The concept isn’t all that new, but mass acceptance of it has hit the marketplace like George of the Jungle slamming into a tree.

Advancements in technology will continue, so perhaps we writers should look ahead and predict how things might evolve to affect the ways readers read and authors write. Well, “predict” is a tad optimistic. “Speculate about” is more like it.

Writing is communicating. In recent times we’ve seen three major paradigm shifts in written communications, all of which were enabled by technology. E-mail, texting, and e-books. Let's concentrate on e-books.

A quiet revolution in publishing is underway.

• Online sales of e-books are now topping online sales of print books.
• Bookstores are closing, falling prey to online stores.
• Libraries struggle as the economy erodes the budgets of non-essential services.
• Newspapers are almost extinct as more people get their news from television and the Internet.

Print media across the board are in a decline, and that includes books. Consumers are moving away from printed books in huge numbers. Like the Big Bang, that movement started slowly but speeds up exponentially.

Resistance is inevitable. People cling to tradition and fight to preserve what they hold dear. They prefer, they say, the look, feel, and, heaven help us, the smell of a “real,” tangible book. They like to pull books from shelves, thumb through pages, jot notes in margins, stuff bookmarks in there, bend down the corners. They enjoy the sensory effects of a tangible book.

Why? Does a tangible book deliver content better than an electronic one? That’s a subjective measure. I think we prefer tangible books not because they do a better job but because they’re what we used when we learned to read. Fun with Dick and Jane was a page turner.

But, you say, the printed medium is as old as the Gutenberg press. How could it be replaced so readily and so quickly by some new-fangled do-dad? To that I say, consider the horse. Horses were domesticated and adapted for labor and transportation some 5000 years ago, and it took the automotive industry less than twenty years to virtually eliminate the horse for any practical use. Relative to the horse, print publication, at only about 550 years old, is still in its infancy.

Progress seldom respects tradition.

So stand back, old-timers. Your “real” book is on the endangered list, soon to be found tucked away only in museums and the collections of wealthy, eccentric old people. Very much like the 78 rpm record, the 8mm movie projector, and the stereopticon viewer.

Traditionalists will strenuously object to these predictions. They say it’s the same old broken record. They’ve heard it before. Such changes will not come to be, they say, for no reason other than that they don’t want them. Such hangers-on will be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the future. Many of those who work in traditional publishing are so entrenched in that business model that such radical changes threaten not only their livelihoods but their sense of well-being.

The same thing happened to buggy whip weavers a few decades back.

Just as you can still find vinyl records and turntables, real books will always be available for those few who want them. But the civilized world at large will ignore them.

Like the pay phone.
More to come...


Blogger randi lee said...

Very interesting stuff. I never really thought to think ahead. Great post!

8:20 AM  
Anonymous A Harding said...

Physical books will never go extinct, and they won't be limited to museums, archives and collector's bookcases. I will draw a parallel with computer games - there is a lot of digital distribution, but companies still release collector's editions with all sorts of extras like figurines of central characters and cloth maps. Going digital will transform physical books into an art - your e-book or Kindle will be the paperback with no frills attached, and your physical books will be specially made, full of illustrations, perhaps hand written, all sorts of things.

7:20 AM  

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