It has been suggested that new technology holds the potential to outstrip the world of print-based publishing, and with publishers digitizing back catalogues and companies devising up-loadable paper and e-ink, the question is raised whether readers want to read online, and if publishers are ready to make a leap from traditional print-based narratives.
As a writer of traditionally print-bound novels and bestselling author of three chick-lit novels, Alison Norrington published and publicized her fourth novel, Staying Single as a cross-media work of fictional blogging, offering a variety of options for readers to participate and receive this story. Offering fragmented chapters as emails, SMS alerts through Twitter, mini documentaries of real-life stories, meet-ups in Second Life and Machinima films, Staying Single garnered an audience of over 5000 readers in only 12 weeks.
Traditional print-based publishers have declared an interest in Staying Single, especially as Norrington has garnered a loyal audience through a variety of delivery systems. However, she is not convinced that the technology is available to replace books.
With a blog as a dialogue between a writer and reader, this nurtures a sense of loyalty and intimacy, and it is undeniable that communities have been formed around reading for years in the form of book groups and forums. Hot on the heels of the Booker Prize is the “Blooker,” the world’s first literary prize devoted to “blooks”—books based on blogs or other web sites—sponsored by Lulu, the world’s fastest-growing provider of print-on-demand books, including a growing number of blooks.
This 45-minute discussion will raise questions over genre issues, focusing on the suitability of specific genres as online reads, along with platform issues and publishers current roles.
The filters of traditional publishing suggest and reinforce an element of quality control, which is an issue of concern and debate within the industry. The processes of selection, commissioning, editing, typesetting, and printing are historical and successful, with publishers unconvinced that these standards could be upheld in a digitized environment. However, Wired reported last year that over 30 self-published novels were “picked up” by major publishing houses in an 18-month period.
Possibly the future of the book lies with not so much the consideration of replacing books as a form. Successful e-publishing could mean to disregard the concept of the page and to consider delivering stories in new ways, which isn’t far removed from the familiar and recognizable text and layout, but will embrace new technologies such as blogs and mobile content. Norrington’s discussion will raise questions about the concept of digitized writing vs. digital writing.
Ultimately, Norrington believes the reader will lead the way, but publishers need to reveal reading options, thus ensuring that they deliver content in a form that is as satisfying and enjoyable as reading a book. Web 2.0 can translate to Publishing 2.0, but for it to reach a commercial army of readers publishers need to consider, not so much the future of the book, more the “future of fiction.”
Bestselling chick-lit novelist and practice-based PhD researcher, Alison is writing one of the first romcom ‘digi novels’- a print, web, gps and gaming story that interconnects whilst also standing alone, which enhances and drives the printed book, with a view to establishing a working business model to revolutionise digital publishing. With many commercial mentors and PhD advisors across the entertainment and publishing industries she is in her 2nd year of PhD research at the Institute of Creative Technologies (http://www.ioct.dmu.ac.uk) at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.
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