Hello, all, I&#x2019;m Pablo. At the last pecha kucha, during BEA in February of last year, I spoke a bit about where the book could be going in the future, and about how publishers need to stay on top of the ball in order to avoid being left behind by forward-thinking people in other industries looking to expand what a book means. &#xA0;
Otherwise, they may be eclipsed by more nimble, agile publishers or production houses, using approaches to media development and media dissemination born of the internet, the film industry and of tech companies, and lacking all the heavy baggage that plagues legacy corporate publishing. Now, I love printed books.
And printed books will still be around for a long, long time, but they will be beautiful objects.
Similar to vinyl records and box sets: low-production-run, beautifully designed, premium-priced collectors items. This will allow publishers to stop throwing money away on expensive and wasteful manufacturing and distribution processes, and instead spend some of that money making a better-quality product, for a larger margin, with a more discerning reader in mind.
These are the books that fans will want to get signed.&#xA0;
But I also said that books as physical objects are nothing more than containers for information. In the digital landscape, it really doesn't matter what the container for that information is, as long as it's appropriate to the information being conveyed, and it offers a comfortable and enjoyable user experience, on the reader's terms. &#xA0;
In the end, I called for publishers to be more like multimedia producers, as Richard Nash recently did in an editorial in Publishing Perspectives, and Ami did on our blog, The New Sleekness, and to involve developers and designers in the initial stages of the editorial process, in order to determine what the best vehicle for a particular author's voice is.
What I'm not going to talk about are so-called &#x201C;enhanced ebooks&#x201D;. That&#x2019;s one of those catch-all terms that everyone ascribes a different meaning to, which makes for a fantastic all-purpose marketing/publicity phrase.
Additionally, what publishers are "enhanced ebooks" are simply ePub files with additional textual material added to them&#x2014;usually as an afterthought and as a marketing tool for selling the print edition or for advancing a business agenda.
There's nothing wrong with that, but it's a very ad-hoc and short-sighted application of technology.&#xA0;
ePub is a fine format, and one that we&#x2019;ll be using as a base for many many applications. But in addition, I&#x2019;d like to see publishers move beyond ePub, into the world of the wildly different media-consumption devices coming onto the market, each with different displays, capabilities, and features. Publishers need to start looking at computing platforms as a whole, instead of limiting themselves to specific file formats or devices. Publishers need to be developing content for mainstream platforms like these.
So in the spirit of Digital Book World, today I'd like to talk about concrete examples of this approach to publishing.
All three of the examples I'll mention are either a work-in-progress, a practical exercise, or something not-quite-there-yet, and each has their flaws. But in some way these ideas embrace the right approach: a disregard of the old tropes of physical publishing, and embracing of new modes of delivery, always in service of the core of what the work itself is meant to be. None of this is meant to be comprehensive, just glimpses at the seeds of what could be. So let's get started.&#xA0;
First up: Shadow Unit
Author Emma Bull had the jones to write a TV show. So she did, with the help of some pals, like WIll Shetterly, Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. They created a series bible, came up with a 'broadcast schedule', and started writing episodes.
They put it all up online for people to read, along with extras like character livejournals, production notes, music playlists, 'cut' scenes, fake websites, short pieces of background writing, and a Wiki to keep track of it all. They are in the process of writing season three. They release 'DVD extras' for each season once it's done, and post those, as well.
There is a dedicated fan community around shadowunit.org, where people write fan fiction, interact with the creators, and eagerly wait for the next episode of Shadow Unit, the best television show that never existed.
Shadow Unit is essentially a group of authors following their muse to the best of their capacity, and putting their work out there for a receptive fanbase. Who's to say that a savvy publisher can't approach the Shadow Unit crew and propose to fund their TV show, to bring it to life as a webseries?&#xA0;
Next up, this is Red Light Properties by Dan Goldman, published by Tor.com. I&#x2019;m partial to this one.
Dan and I had worked previously on a comic for Tor.com, and when he proposed a story about a jewish/cuban real estate broker/psychedelic exorcist in Miami I jumped at the chance to publish something long-form with him.
Dan came up with an interesting way to present comics on a website, a way in which he could control the pacing of the story in a way, but at the same time create an interface that the user could manipulate themselves. So he split the pages of his comic into discreet panels and word balloons, and we developed a comics viewer for the site which allows the reader to control the flow panel-by-panel. It just went live this past week, so you can check Red Light Properties out on Tor.com. Now, there&#x2019;s more to this than just a plug.
Part of the philosophy behind Dan's approach to comics is to try to make it as universally available as possible, and that means, among other things, viewing a comic on whatever screen the reader wants to use.
As I was getting the raw artwork for his comics, I decided to take this to its ultimate conclusion and try a little experiment: I put all the consecutive images in my &#xF8FF;tv. Instant slide show. I could now read Dan's comic from my couch. It was a crude approach, but a very nice experience once it was set up. I wish I could read Batman like this.
Finally, we have Level 26 by Anthony Zyker, published by Dutton Books
Now, what this lacks in polish it makes up for in execution. Level 26 is a novel, a social network, and a series of inter-chapter videos called &#x201C;cyber-bridges&#x201D;, which is an unfortunate name if I ever heard one.
But the interesting part isn&#x2019;t what this is, it&#x2019;s how it&#x2019;s delivered.
As an iTunes download, you get a DVD-like experience where you can view stills, view artwork, get more info about the authors, and of course, read the book, with these &#x201C;cyber-bridges&#x201D; integrated into the flow of the novel in a relatively linear way.
You can also watch this on an &#xF8FF;tv, of course, which gives you the same couch-reading experience that I was going for with the Red Light Comic on my TV. Now as a designer, I cringe at the typographic and readability issues with Level 26, but as I said, what&#x2019;s important here isn&#x2019;t the particular execution, it&#x2019;s the overall approach.
The publisher has leveraged the huge installed base and multimedia capability of iTunes and the iPhone when delivering the book to the public, and eliminated the need for additional barriers to entry, like a dedicated eReader or special software.
It also meets readers in a space where they&#x2019;re already at; after all, pretty much everyone has iTunes on their computer these days. I can&#x2019;t help but think that this is a good strategy for attracting new readers, or for facilitating author discovery.
These are all the seeds of what&#x2019;s possible. It&#x2019;s up to publishers to take advantage of the opportunity to shepherd authors&#x2019; ideas, that crucial information they&#x2019;re trying to communicate, into whatever device format or mechanism readers are using. To limit ourselves to just words on a page, or on a screen, is to limit the expression of the core product that this industry is based on.
DBW 7x20x21 Pablo
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Or you can, you know,
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SOME NOTABLE EXAMPLES.
Leave your paperback at home; these are the books you want signed
Absolute Sandman Vol. 1 Little Brother
Published by DC Comics, Published by Voyager Books,
2006 (ish) 2009
FEAR, UNCERTAINTY, AND DOUBT
A TACTIC OF RHETORIC AND FALLACY used in sales,
marketing, public relations, politics and
propaganda. FUD is generally a strategic attempt
to inﬂuence public perception by disseminating
information designed, among other things, to
maintain leverage over a current business partner
who could potentially become a rival.
Paraphrased for conciseness from Wikipedia Sound familiar?
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Durn fool idjit’s on his own.
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