Thursday, November 04, 2010

Some More Thoughts On Digital Publishing

Digital publishing has been on my mind a lot, and I've blogged about it many times. This blog post, The Emperor Has No Clothes from Call My Agent! succinctly puts forward a lot of thoughts about digital publishing, thoughts that call for quick adjustment to the, um, "new world order". The essence of the post really is that focus should be given now to content, and not anymore to the physical book. Even without the book, the content is still needed. An excerpt:

First, let me say that I believe that what's changing in the industry is going to be very good for authors, as a whole, and obviously better for some authors than others. It will be great for authors who understand that they need to connect to their readers, whether they do it through social media, live readings, open dialogue. This is, in a way, a return to the original forms of storytelling: in a cave, perhaps, or around a fire, with your audience right there in front of you. It's going to suit some authors very well, and others not so much. But it was ever thus.

Second, a lot of the intra-industry thinking (and I'm only talking about the Australian industry, because that's what I know best) about how to wrestle with the changing digital landscape is, I believe, wrongly framed. Publishers are still focusing on books, but we're so far past that now. Books contain stories and content. Stories and content are what we all work in, not books. Yet the production processes and supply chain are all about books. So I can understand why there's a reluctance to think differently - once we're no longer talking about books, all those processes have to change. But it's better to make the change than have the change forced upon you, which is what's happening right now.

When all we focus on is books-as-objects, a very important element of the whole process is overlooked: the author. If sales reps are selling books, they mainly need to focus on the book. If they have no book to sell - if you take away that object - they're left with stories/content created by the author. An author is quite a different sales proposition to a book. An author is a person, for one thing, and comes loaded with all the person complications - like a personality. A book is easier. A book is less messy. Sometimes it's easy to forget that the book came from an author originally. But it did. The author is not a necessary evil; the author is the reason the story exists.

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