Digital killed the physical star
Authors and publishing experts discuss the digitisation of the publishing industry and the exciting crossroad that we’re at.
For the first time since the invention of the printing press, America recorded higher digital sales than physical copies in February 2011. With the Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad doubling up as ebook-readers, its not rare for a UK child to not have a book.
‘Digital is the most exciting thing to have happened in many many generations for publishing,’ says John Mitchinson, a former publisher with over two decades of experience in the trade. His views are echoed by Dr James Pope, a media lecturer at Bournemouth University, who firmly believes that, in the years to come, books will come alive with interactivity.
The problem of piracy
But author Andy McDermott, who has just sold his millionth physical copy, believes that because things have mushroomed so fast, publishers face the challenge of systemising the process, so that things don’t get out of hand, like it did with the music industry:
Decreasing attention spans
But why are we becoming an increasingly digitised population?
‘Our attention spans are shifting. We want more immediacy and a bigger impact more quickly. That affects how we interpret things as well. It’s just human life evolving,’ says Tricia Walker whose book Benedict’s Brother is being converted into a movie.
But Dr Pope believes that we don’t have shorter attention spans, it’s just a matter of what keeps us interested: ‘If people did have shorter attention spans, then no one would go and watch a film because they last for about 2-3 hours. It’s just that the media and our behaviour have changed alongside each other.’
Mitchinson believes this will not affect the power of a good narrative: ‘Short attention span is part of the human condition. The modern age may have accentuated it because there are a lot more things to do but I don’t think it spells the end of the narrative. Things are adapting and changing and this is a good thing.’
Does this mean books are dead?
Mitchinson, one of the brains behind Unbound, says that digital books are not killing the physical copies. ‘What will happen is that physical copies will make great gifts, especially if they are beautifully bound and typeset, or else, they will have to be signed as collectible first editions.’
The rest of the authors on the panel, too, agree that digitized books and interactive websites are the way forward and that physical copies of books may just become collectable items.
McDermott, however, says that there will always be the rare exceptions: ‘One in 10 films actually makes a profit by Hollywood standards. But the profits they make are enough to make up for the nine that don’t. It looks like the book industry is headed that way.’
He adds, ‘There are obvious superstars like (J.K.) Rowling and (Dan) Brown who are guaranteed mega-sellers. The amount they make gives their publishers the confidence to put out things and take a risk with it.’ But, he, too, agrees that we are on the cusp of a digital revolution.
Mitchinson sums it up best saying, ‘Apps are redefining books and how one would read and interact with the text. It’s like Cortez looking out over the Pacific. We are right at the beginning of a huge adventure. It’s much bigger than even the invention of a paperback. This digital revolution really is like Gutenberg all over again.’
Posted on June 22, 2011, in Books and tagged amanda hocking, andy mcdermott, books, digital, digitization, j k rowling, john mitchinson, michelle dry, physical, piracy, shelf-life, sherwin coelho, sue luminati, tricia walker. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.