Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Future Of Books # 12,092

Last year, when I was uploading A GONZO NOIR to the web, I was very tempted to make it a more radical experience of reading than you get from a conventional novel, utilising pics where appropriate, YouTube videos, author comments and marginalia, and including web-links to topics mentioned, etc. Time being a commodity as precious as oxygen these days, I decided against it, but David Meerman Scott over at Web Ink Now has some interesting thoughts along the same lines, to wit:
“So what if a book read more like a website? What if it looked more like those Choose Your Own Adventure books, with links to other chapters, pages, and even other resources in the marginalia? What if there were paid advertising on the page, but not traditional ads but rather something more akin to Google AdWords, where the placement is determined online in a bidding process coupled with consumer-driven inputs? What if on the printed page, instead of single photos or illustrations with captions, books adapted the concept of the embedded YouTube video, and used a storyboard format--i.e., a comics format--to depict a scene, when sequential visuals are required?”
  Sounds ludicrous? Not really, when you’ve got downloadable books to hand-held devices, and wi-fi growing in availability by the day. Any thoughts?


Stuart Neville said...

My publisher has a new book coming out soon called The Collected Works of T.S. Spivet that is supposed to be fantastic. It's a child prodigy cartographer, and apparently much of the narrative is relayed through sketched maps and notes in the margins. I think as people get used to receiving their information in more and varied ways, they may be more open to a book diverging from the traditional narrative.

Corey Wilde said...

I think it's inevitable. It may start with non-fiction -- art books? history? in fact, the CD-ROM encyclopedias like Encarta have already done something similar, haven't they? -- but it will bleed over into fiction as well. Imagine Ken Bruen's books having links to all of the books and music, philosophy and religion he references? It may be the very thing to get more people reading.

John McFetridge said...

Corey may be right, it'll start with non-fiction, but I have a feeling like most new technology it'll be driven by porn.

Oh wait, did I just lower the tone here again? Sorry, that should read erotica, yeah, that's the ticket.

Corey Wilde said...

You're right, John, and I don't know why I didn't think of that. Yep, porn will be the driving economic factor behind eventual e-book success.

Far from lowering the tone, I think you were being realistic.

seanag said...

I expect that porn does drive a lot, and that there are also other drivers.

Maybe not totally on point, there was much discussion at the bookstore I work in today about Kindle2, and Stephen King's announcement that his next book is coming out exclusively on Kindle. I expect it is the direction that books are going, for better or worse, but I can't really see them remaining books as we know them in a new medium--again, for better or worse. And why should they?

I happened to get in a big argument with a customer this past week because she wanted the bookstore I work in to be more 'proactive' and get the publishers to stop making hardbacks because they were less sustainable than paperbacks. This is a bit like the car dealer's lobbying the car industry to stop making cars and start making bicycles, but never mind. The direction is surely away from paper versions of things that can be downloaded electronically, and that is almost certainly going to sway things toward what doesn't require a long attention span, or at least is capable of commanding attention. In short, John is right.

There will be porn.

John McFetridge said...

Seana, I've been wondering for a while why bookstores can't stock e-books?

I would love to go into my local bookstore, browse, talk to JD about what's new and get a couple books loaded on my e-reader.

I'm not crazy about doing all my browsing online.

You know, except for porn, where I don;t want to actually be seen looking for it....

seanag said...

I expect that at some point bookstores probably will try to do this. But I personally feel that it would only be another sign of their demise. Not because I'm against that option in theory, but because why would you go to the expense of keeping a storefront open, which is actually a very expensive proposition, when you can deliver the exact same product directly as a download and avoid all that expense? Although I am probably as aware of the benefits that an actual storefront conveys to a community as much as anyone, I think it's inevitable that as ebooks take hold, as they will, sooner or later, the cost of doing business in a real world store is going to come to be a luxury few can afford. In fact, it seems clear to me that that is already happening.

But don't tell my boss I said that.

John McFetridge said...

I've been saying for a while now that publishers and bookstores have to stop thinking of themselves as printers and warehouses and put more emphasis on the value-add they bring to books (if that's not too corny, biz-speak).

You're probably right about bookstores disappearing, but it's really too bad because they offer a lot more than just quick shopping. Somehow bookstores managed to stay in business when drugstores and grovery store came on as competition and online booksellers haven't put the indies out of business yet.

seanag said...

I don't think it's too corny, and in fact something like that message is the whole campaign of independent bookstores in recent years here in the U.S.

But the fact is that the combination of online shopping and the expansion of the chains here slowly are putting the indies out of business. Several of the biggest and best Northern California indies have folded over the last few years. Ours, which is one of the larger ones, has managed to stay afloat, but I have some ambivalence about that as it's involved some costs and sacrifices to the staff that I'm not always entirely happy to have made. Bookstore workers tend to be a fairly bright lot, and some of them even have real expertise, but no one is really getting compensated for any of that. You have to do it for love, and it's hard to something for love forever.

Some of the recession style sacrifices people find themselves making now are things that bookstore workers have been doing for about the last ten years. And as far as I can tell, there isn't really any solution to all this, or at least they would involve subsidizing them in some sort of way that wouldn't seem to be in the cards right now.