Can Books and the Web Play Well Together? 01.26.2009, 11:04 AM
posted by eddie a. tejeda
The Internet, coupled with the bad economic times, has the media industry in a flurry; Institutional newspaper papers are failing regularly, magazines are reconsidering everything, and reports showing that people are just not reading - or at least not the way we are used to - has book publishers particularly concerned. So as technological advances make it easier to share online, it is publishers who are being squeezed. Especially given that no matter how things shake out, writers will still write and readers will still read.
But as the industry flails, I see hope in an emerging model. A model that I think re-embraces the traditional role of a publisher - that of connecting quality writers with interested readers - with the technology at hand.
I got this impression while reading the New York Times essay "See the Web Site, Buy the Book", which suggests that authors are realizing the importance of a unique web presence:
[...] do book sites really help sell books? As in so much of publishing, no one quite knows. "People now latch on to a Web presence the way they once did with the book tour," said Sloane Crosley, a publicist at Vintage/Anchor whose own book, "I Was Told There'd Be Cake," was accompanied by a Web site featuring photographs of intricate dioramas, video and enough new material to fill a second book. "I don't know how well the success of book Web sites can be tracked, but they do get thrown into that priceless bucket of buzz."
First, I like that they do not know whether having a web presence will sell books, as experimentation is always a good thing. But embracing the web, I think, suggests a certain level of confidence in the book - at least for the time being. I think this also acknowledges the web as a distinct medium that doesn't have to threaten books directly - and can maybe even work together with traditional publishing - reminiscent of the relationship between film and book industry.
Whether or not this model is adopted and developed by the current publishing industry is hard to say. It is telling that, according to the article, it is the authors taking the leadership role; paying the web agencies, out of pocket, 85% of the time.
Posted by eddie a. tejeda on January 26, 2009 11:04 AM
Tom Lopy on January 26, 2009 6:24 PM:
There are sites dedicated to promoting and producing - not just selling paper. NewFiction.com for example will convert to audio book and podcast at no charge to the writer.
sebastian mary on January 29, 2009 8:33 AM:
One model that's not discussed enough is the one that reverses this format. So rather than producing 'book sites', stories are told online for free and then subsequently publish as physical books. And yes, this can be successful: stories are told in small, consumable media chunks that suit people's digital lifestyles, and those that really grok the work can then go buy it.
One great recent example is Playing for Keeps, which began as a website and podcasts, and - as a print book - subsequently reached number 1 in the Amazon scifi charts.
(Disclosure of interest: I'm working on something in this form at the moment - I'll post about it when it's a bit more developed...)
Gary Frost on January 29, 2009 9:36 PM:
Print attributes of fixity, navigational and haptic refinement, materiality, and reliable re-access across time, all pair nicely with screen attributes of immediacy, automated search, electronic delivery, and live content. The live nature of screen revisions and drafts as converted to the constraint of print is an appealing transition for the author. Better than the dissolve of a work transmitted from print to screen.
Bryan Bibb on March 19, 2009 9:50 AM:
The codex was a revolutionary invention, and it has served us well. However, I agree with Gary that it is time to move beyond the limitations of the printed page. There will always be printed options, but we should see a new generation of "books" that are electronic first, with all of the freedom and innovation that is possible in that new format.
There is hardly any reason for many types of books (academic monographs, technical writing, visual pieces) to appear in print at all.