Tuesday, December 11, 2007

e-Books are a Whole New Canvas for Authors

It seems to me that in all the hand-wringing about the end of printed books, there is an important opportunity not being discussed at all.

The printed book is a closed system. It stands completely alone, and interacts with only one reader at a time. It is, as an old mentor of mine would say, "perfect".

By contrast e-books are open, and can possibly interact with many people at one time. So, I guess they are "imperfect".

But authors haven't had this much creative opportunity since the book of Kells. Perhaps that is what all the hand-wringing is about? Are the authors afraid of the challenge of dealing with such a vast canvas?

They shouldn't be. And, neither should editors, or agents, or publishers. No one has to use the entirety of the canvas yet. Just push out the borders a little... create some alternative endings... link to a few websites that have additional information about the topic you are writing about... set up some links to wikipedia.

As the borders get pushed a little here and a little there, I am sure that reading experience will become enhanced, and the reading public will reward the creativity by buying more works (notice I didn't say books).

In some ways it feels like book publishing is where television was when color TV sets were first introduced. At first they were just for the 'early adopters', and the programming wasn't any different, it just used color film. I still remember our first color TV. (We were not early adopters). As consumers of the media, we were amazed and enthralled with the new paradigm. That interest eventually fed into the creativity of the television studios, who invested more and more in the technology, and the 'creative pallet'.

I think the next 10 years will bode the same thing for 'books'. We'll always call them that... at least for a few more generations.

1 comment:

Jim Kingsepp said...

I could not agree more. The codex as a container for ideas is no longer the only game in town.

There are a number of writers who are expanding the definition of the book. Take a look at the stuff collecting on the Electronic Literature Organization site, for example.

The challenge in the future is how to fit the more 'imperfect' works into the current spate of ebook readers which rely on the traditional codex structure.