3 questions about the future of publishing

Dec 9, 2014 | Book Publishing

Predicting the future of publishing

It’s easy to predict the future. The hard part is getting it right.

We only know two things about the future for sure. One is that it will be different from today. The other is that nobody gets the details right.

Even so, thinking about how things might change can prepare you to make wise decisions. Here are three news items related to publishing, along with some related questions.

Where else can your writing appear?

From Teddy Wayne: Got a Best Seller? Chipotle May Come Calling

“The author Jonathan Safran Foer was eating in a Chipotle not long ago with nothing to read when he had a truly ‘out of the box’ idea: What if his meal’s packaging could display ennui-alleviating text? Mr. Foer reached out to Chipotle with his notion, which eventually turned into the ‘Cultivating Thought’ author series. The Mexican-fast-food franchise commissioned and printed on its bags and cups short works from 10 famous writers, including Toni Morrison and Malcolm Gladwell.”

The article is about “best selling” authors, but don’t let that stop you. And don’t limit yourself to Chipotle or even food containers. In addition to blogs, books, and articles, where else could your writing appear?

What other forms can you publish in?

From Alexandra Alter: An Art Form Rises: Audio Without the Book

“Print has been good to Jeffery Deaver. Over the last 26 years, Mr. Deaver, a lawyer-turned-thriller writer, has published 35 novels and sold 40 million copies of them globally. But his latest work, ‘The Starling Project,’ a globe-spanning mystery about a grizzled war crimes investigator, isn’t available in bookstores. It won’t be printed at all. The story was conceived, written and produced as an original audio drama for Audible, the audiobook producer and retailer. If Mr. Deaver’s readers want the story, they’ll have to listen to it.”

I’m a fan of Audible and I love audiobooks, but audio and standard video aren’t the only alternative forms. What about graphic novels? Or animations?

One blogger who does interesting things with form is Michael Bungay Stanier. Click for a sample of one of his blog posts. While you’re on his site, look around, there’s lots of good advice for writers.

How will books change?

From Nathan Ingraham: Google Play Books is now a lot better for reading nonfiction titles like textbooks

“By now, you’re likely quite familiar with the concept of reading an ebook, whether on a tablet or dedicated e-reader: you load it up with as many books as you can, tap or flip your way through the pages, and maybe highlight a few favorite passages or look up some word definitions along the way. Google believes that’s a fine formula for reading a novel, but sorely lacking when reading nonfiction books — think cookbooks, textbooks, or any other book that you don’t typically read straight through from cover to cover. If it’s not something you read serially, Google’s thinking goes, the ebook experience is still sub-optimal.”

The century after Gutenberg invented the movable type press saw a burst of innovation in ways to make reading more effective. Page numbers, tables of contents, and indexes all came into use then. What new things will happen to books? How can you use them?

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