I’m an absolute Twit. There, I’ve said it. I’m referring, of course, to the social networking phenomenon of Twitter, where (it could be argued) I’m spending way too much of my time. But it is a fascinating—and, I would argue, extremely useful and valuable—‘virtual agora’, where ideas and opinions are flying around in all directions, all the time (one of the reasons it’s so addictive).
I’m involved in a lot of threads on Twitter about ‘the future of the book’, and clearly a lot of the discourse revolves around digital publishing, ebooks, ereaders, etc. But I’m keenly aware that ‘the future of the book’ discussion is pulling in a few contradictory directions, and I’m increasingly concerned that far too much of the ‘noise’ is about an ‘inevitable’ shift to digital, about disruption and new ways of doing things; and far too little is about print, and bricks-and-mortar stores, and the degree to which many things will stay the same … and that new and old will live alongside each other.
I’m increasingly placing myself in a position where I’m encouraging digital pundits (themselves online seemingly 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, iPhones gripped in cramped fingers from dawn till midnight …) to think of ‘and’ scenarios:
- There will be ebooks and print books, alongside each other, for a long time to come
- There will be small, dynamic publishers and big, slow ones
- There will be more content with a global aspect and more things that are small and local
- Large players will dominate and small players will have more access than ever to the mainstream
- Authors will publish directly to readers, bypassing traditional gatekeepers and authors will want and need agents, editors, publishers and booksellers in order to reach their audience
- Audiences will engage directly with authors and readers will seek the expertise and authority of gatekeepers (reviews, retailers, publishers)
- Events will be small and innovative (Emerging Writers Festival) and large and traditional (Sydney or Melbourne Writers Festival)
- Territorial copyright and separate editions will be old hat and will continue to be important.
Confused yet? I sure am! Enthused and energised by the changes, challenges and opportunities? I sure am.
But what do you think?