Between discussion regarding the Kindle ebook reader and various idea about how to expand the margins of the genre I’ve been thinking. Change is certainly coming in the publishing field but I don’t think it’s going to be as groundbreaking or deathly as some think.
First let’s start with content itself. The book, or short story for our discussion here. This hasn’t changed in hundreds of years and I don’t think it’s going to change much, if at all, in the next few hundred. We, as prose writers, will be dealing with words strung together to tell a story. There might be a few pictures and there might be some music but that’s it. I don’t believe we’re ever going to see a huge influx of material that integrates the printed word with visual or audio special effects. Why do I say that? Because all of that takes away from what is the essential joy or reading a book: using your imagination. How many times to people complain that an actor in a movie or TV show didn’t look like the reader had pictured in his mind? Even science fiction and fantasy writers, who tend to be on the cutting edge of this sort of thing have done little to change the actual content of their stories. They may come up with some promotional devices that utilize all of the bells and whistles, but the novels and the short stories are just words on a page.
Second, let’s get to the biggie: delivery. This is where I think the most change is going to take place, but I don’t think it’s going to happen the way people think it will. I don’t ever see there being a popular dedicated e-reader. There is just no way to justify an expense like that on something used to read books. What I think will happen though is that books will start being delivered on devices most consumers already have like PDAs and cell phones. I also see audio becoming a HUGE way to deliver stories with the rise of the iPod and in-car MP3 players. This combines all of the fun and convenience of technology with the imaginative and personal aspects of traditional reading. The reader, or listener, still gets to put his own imagination to work creating the story. I don’t see computers becoming a huge medium for novels, but it will become a vital resource for short stories and for newspapers. The newspaper aspect is already starting to be obvious, but I don’t think it will be long before we see a short story renaissance on the web. All that needs to happen is for someone to find a viable business model to create income from the magazine so writers can be paid.
These are my thoughts for now. Computers have been popular now for more than two decades and the only major changes we’ve seen to the printed word are how it’s delivered and how it’s promoted. I don’t think that going to change much in the next two decades either. In January science fiction author and popular blogger John Scalzi will be at a science fiction convention in Troy, MI and I think I’m going to go to the conference and see what I can absorb to bring these new delivery and promotional ideas to the crime writing field. We’ll see what happens with that.