The eBook Revolution

What does emerging technology mean for writing and reading literature?

By Adam Charles (Director of iWriteReadRate)

I sat in a bar a while ago talking with an old friend over a cold beer.  As an Engineer his viewpoint on the various topics we talked about was rather different to my own.  Whilst discussing widely publicised environmental issues his response was always that ‘technology would find the answer’.  My standpoint was rather less definitive on the subject.  Yes, I agreed, technology could play a key role, but it’s down to our choices – individually and collectively – to make any change a significant and lasting one.

My, perhaps tenuous, point here is that we’re at a real tipping point with technology in relation to how we consume literature and media in general.  Technology revolutionises, it refines, it redraws traditional lines of consumption, disrupts our historical patterns of behaviour, it finds a way of improving the situation in whatever aspect of our lives that it touches, but only if we embrace it.

We can see so many recent examples of how Internet and communications technology has fundamentally altered how and when we interact with our friends (real and virtual), connect to the world, find and listen to music, and we’re beginning to see this rebirth happen with how we discover, purchase, and consume literature in every genre.

With the proliferation of devices capable of viewing and downloading content wherever we are – such as smart-phones, tablets and dedicated eReader platforms – the wind very much appears in the sails for a generational change in how we buy and consume books, how we experience literature in general.  This is now reaching a point of market integration when it can no longer be considered in its infancy.  The people are speaking and it’s now time to embrace the change.

Alas, I have to admit that I will miss the touch, smell, and sense of paper and print.  My personal opinion is that there will always be a place for it, and writers may always want to see their hard work in a physical form.  However, progress happens for a reason.  Usually this is to provide an improved, refined, simpler or richer experience for the people accessing the content.

So, what does the future look like?

I wouldn’t perhaps feel qualified at this stage to foresee what the endgame looks like for publishing, as the shift is still only just beginning to take hold.  However, there is little doubt that it will have to adapt and revolutionise into something that we can’t quite predict just yet.  Whilst this change is undoubtedly underway, it is still currently ether wafting around the world wide web, a twinkle in the eye of ours and upcoming generations, with only whispers about what the future may bring.

I read an interesting article recently about Digital Natives – those who have grown up never knowing a world without the Internet – and their expectation about what they can do online.  The way they look at the world, through real and virtual goggles, the way that they want to communicate and consume media of all kinds is fundamentally different as a result of technology.  Whilst those of us who still remember Dial-up tones are perhaps grappling with this, the Digital Natives will expect to have flexible, interactive experiences using the Internet; and this certainly will not be any different for how they will want to consume their literature.

What excites me about what could happen next is perhaps more important right now.  Writers and readers at this point in history, this particular moment in time, have an opportunity unlike any other generation of people in love with the written word since humanity began the mass printing of books all those hundreds of years ago.

As writers and readers we – through our actions, our purchasing decisions, the places and devices we use to consume books, our words both traditionally published and Indie published (electronic and printed), through our blogs and myriad social media interactions with people around the globe – truly have an opportunity to make the whole process of what becomes a successful story or novel more democratic, more personal, more social.  People Power in its most positive form.  I can see a rise in niche literature – work that wouldn’t be considered commercial by publishers – that will sell thousands rather than millions but still have something very worthwhile to say, and will inevitably, through technology, find an enthusiastic audience to enjoy it out there in the world.

I’m not an industry insider, I’m not versed in the old ways of doing things, and I’m not predicting anything in particular here that isn‘t starting to happen already.  What I am, however, is in my late twenties, a voracious reader, an unpublished writer and a keen technophile.  I know what I want from my literature, I know how easily I want to access exciting new ideas and stories, how wide and varied a choice I also would like.  I also know that I would like a more interactive way of finding new writers and stories to entertain and inspire me.

One thing plays at the back of my mind when thinking about this topic.  It is that I sincerely hope it will be a democratic – rather than autocratic – change.  It’s really down to all of us to enable this to happen.

I’ve clearly bought front row tickets for the revolution, I guess what happens next is down to everyone who has yet to decide, and the next generation of book lovers.  Whilst you’re thinking about it have a look at our new website, it would be great to see you there.

Get your ticket and join The eBook Revolution!

Visit us now at: www.iWriteReadRate.com


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27 Responses to The eBook Revolution

  1. Very interesting & thoughtful post, last fall I would have railed against ereaders, but am slowly coming around to see many benefits to them (don’t have one yet, though!) Curious to see the impact on local bookstores. I love the feel of print in my hands, and also hope we have the print option always.

  2. Adam, I look forward to your vision coming true at iWriteReadRate. Even though I am a baby boomer, I have embraced the technology revolution and can only hope I will be around long enough for the next big innovations, which seem to happen with lightning speed in this day and age.

  3. admin says:

    Many thanks for your comments, they’re both greatly appreciated. I too am very much a fan of printed books, but progress happens for a reason – I’m sure there are big innovations still to come. Great to have you both on board & look forward to seeing you on the site soon.

    All the best

    Adam

  4. Lev Raphael says:

    The ebook revolution gives authors much more power. I’ve started putting six of the books for which I got the rights back into Kindle and Nook forms, and have plans to launch several books there. The money may be slow in coming, but I’ll earn much more per book sold than if I were splitting it with a publisher.

  5. admin says:

    Thanks for your comment – Lev. Yes, I totally agree. Hopefully you’ll also consider uploading your books to our site to give yourself further opportunity to sell your work and receive valuable ratings and reviews from your readers.

    Thanks for stopping by, and hope to see you on our site in the future.

    All the best

    Adam

  6. Diana Horner says:

    ” sincerely hope it will be a democratic – rather than autocratic – change”..

    This is a key point, and I heartily agree. Arguments about quality of content, and literary standards, continue to rage. I have been quite taken aback by the ‘lively’ discussions appearing after numerous posts and media articles on the subject.

    Some of the alarm expressed, stems from fear of course. Those who currently manage our consumption of printed work, don’t necessarily like the thought of ‘amateurs’ getting above themselves.

    Others, quite rightly, worry about an avalanche of content, burying the sorts of books we need to enrich our lives, learning, and the cultural evolution of a crowded world.

    eBook consumers, are a fantastically diverse global audience thank goodness. They will decide what is worth reading, and how much they will pay. Some terrible stuff will be ePublished, and some great works may struggle to gain visibility.

    “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.” said Tim O Reilly in 2002. If good authors nurture ‘tribes of loyal readers’ they can rise above the detritus, and maintain their status and influence. Although, one man’s detritus, is another’s delight!

    iwritereadrate.com is going to be a great tool to help sift :)

  7. admin says:

    Hi Diana. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment – your positive feedback is much appreciated!

    My personal thoughts are that the cream will always rise to the top. However, it’s a very good point that ‘one man’s detritus, is another’s delight’, and I agree that readers can decide what they want to read themselves – with Indie Publishing this could be something that the big print publishers would never have considered being worth printing (which is why it is great!).

    I am still a little concerned about the self-editing of eBooks before people place them on platforms like ours. It’s so crucial to having your work viewed, rated, and downloaded that you get the basics right. A thoroughly spelling & grammar etc check; as well as a good looking cover will all help the well written work stand out further (No-one will want to download a book littered with errors!).

    You’re correct as well, that iWriteReadRate is sort-of a filter, and well written, highly rated works will be more visible on our site – so it’s in the writers interest to get the basics right as well as the big things (like plot/characterization etc).

    All the best

    Adam

  8. DMcCunney says:

    “I can see a rise in niche literature – work that wouldn’t be considered commercial by publishers – that will sell thousands rather than millions but still have something very worthwhile to say, and will inevitably, through technology, find an enthusiastic audience to enjoy it out there in the world.”

    It’s a lovely thought, with a core of truth. The growth of the Internet and the relative ease of electronic publication has made it possible for anyone to get “published”, and advances in print on demand mean you can profitably provide titles in print form that appeal to a market too small to be addressed by a traditional publisher. They need larger markets to make it worth doing at all.

    But the sticking point above is “inevitably”. Oh, really? How? Technology makes it easy to make work available. It does not guarantee the work will somehow magically find its audience. Making the work available is one thing. Selling it is quite another matter, involving an awful lot of work and a liberal helping of luck. Too many people looking at the ease of self-publication as the Promised Land for aspiring writers ignore or discount the effort required to sell the work, and are in for a rude shock.

    In the 1960′s, noted SF writer Norman Spinrad opined that there should be enough magazines devoted to SF that everyone writing it could get published. My thought at the time was “That’s nice, but who will read it?” Now, with electronic books and the Internet, anyone can get published. I still ask the same question.
    ______
    Dennis

  9. I’ve also seen a rise in niche publishing via the small (print) press for the last few decades as a reaction to the merging of traditional (New York, Londion, etc.) presses into international publishing conglomerates, more concerned with bottom lines than literary excellence. And experimental press, if you will, has been going on longer than that (City Lights Press, e.g., was publishing “beat” poets in the 1950s). I can see electronic publiation accelerating the trend and perhaps spreading it more into “mainstream” publishing (my experience has been with genre publiaction, science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery and/or — e.g. Ferlinghetti’s City Light Books — the avant garde) as well as, as others have pointed out, a possible flood of poorly written material that may take a time to get shaken out. Whether cream will naturally rise to the top, though, will be interesting to find out. I find an emphasis in a number of writers/publishers groups on the increasing importance of writers’ “platforms” for instance — in short, who you know (or how many you know) as opposed to how well or even what you write. To be sure, who you know has been a part of ye olde traditional publishing too, e.g. agents, but here again there seems to be, at least for now, a race toward quantity rather than quality. (And, OMG, others than I have wondered at what the rise of a new generation of Internet savvy readers and writers will do to even such once taken for granted things as orthagraphy and spelling. :-0 )

  10. admin says:

    Hi Dennis and James. Big thanks for your in-depth posts – great insights from your own experiences here, and all really valid points.

    I think the next few years will be crucial in shaping access to literature and books in general through electronic mediums.

    Here at iWriteReadRate we’re going to give it our best to provide a great platform for writers and readers to be a part of, and we’ll see how it goes. We think the emerging technology offers a great opportunity for both writers and readers, and that the positives outweigh the negatives significantly.

    Appreciate you stopping by – visit us again soon!

    All the best

    Adam

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  12. Bell says:

    Niche literature is definitely going to get a boost. It’s been around for a long time, but printing and distribution costs kept it down somewhat. Such constraints are gone. Infinite possibility beckons.

    There was an interesting post about this sort of thing at Gnarrative a couple of months back – the author maintained that we’re going to witness the emergence of “neo-pulp.”
    The original pulp market gave us Robert E. Howard, HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, L. Sprague de Camp, and nurtured the imagination of all these writers we look up to nowadays.

    I say, bring it on. The future is the only way to go.

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  14. Sam Brown says:

    Straight to the point and well written! Why can’t everyone else be like this?

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  17. -Chamaine says:

    I understand the new conveniences in the e-readers, there are many attributes to behold! However, someday when the electricity runs out on us…isn’t it wonderful to put some oil in the lamp and hold in your hands the soft pages of a world all together different then your own. Both have there upsides, but in the end, paper will prevail for thousands of years….and our computers simply may not….Perhaps a copy of each??

  18. admin says:

    Hi Charmaine. Thanks for commenting. One of the iWriteReadRate team has a theory that you can’t stop progress and that it’s almost the difference between electronic music and good old vinyl. Yes, we all think there will always be a place for printed books, however ebooks have the potential to be so much more flexible, social, and accessible. Not sure about in a thousand years though…! Appreciate your feedback, hope you enjoy iWriteReadRate.

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