Friday, December 12, 2008

When Grandpa's a Quack ...

Raise your hand if you believe books are forever ...

Sigh. I wish I was among you.

Everyone knows the publishing industry is in a recession. Big deal, right? So is everything else. It'll recover.

Perhaps. But my guess is we're at the leading edge of the end of books. If you don't believe me, look at newspapers already. At one time, believe it or not, EVERYONE read the newspaper. Today, people have voted with their mice and clearly indicated they prefer to get their news online and over the TV. Does anyone really believe in 500 years, we'll still be cutting down trees, processing them into paper, printing on them with ink, and then shipping these heavy packages all over the world, only to sell less than 50% of them?

So. A moment of mourning for the end of the Age of Gutenberg.

But there is a hugely bright side to all this. Storytelling will never die. Quite the opposite. I think it will flourish as we gain the means to tell ever more complex, ever more realistic and ever more interactive stories. Moreover, I don't think reading will ever die. Studies have shown the human brain is particularly suited to read and learn from words.

So the "book" of the future will likely resemble the Internet now, except it will be content rich and, most importantly, an open world. Imagine if your readers could start a journey and decide at any point to hop POV from one character to another, but all within the context of the same story. Imagine if you could hurtle toward your conclusion from 10 different places instead of one. Imagine if you could embed mini-stories within the larger context of the world and the main story.

In a way, this is already possible—and anyone who's ever been blown away by Grand Theft Auto knows what I'm talking about. Video games are incredible story devices. You don't just run around shooting stuff (although that's mighty fun), you LIVE IT. And in the open platform games, you can go anywhere, do anything, within the context of the created world.

And it's working! If I'm not mistaken, the video game industry is almost as large, if not larger, than the movie industry itself. It could fit all of print publishing in one joystick.

I used to resist this line of thinking. You know. I grew up on books. I love them. Some of my best memories as a child are reading. But as I learned more about the publishing industry, and watching what's happening now, it became clear it was a ridiculous and unsustainable business model. What kind of industry BEGS its distribution channels to overorder and then return half of its product?

So I'll always have books around. Sure. And my kids probably will, too. And their kids will probably think Grandpa is quaint for collecting those printy thingies. And their kids will probably think Great Grandpa is a quack. But when it comes to being a writer, I'm looking forward to the possibilities ...


lainey bancroft said...

Well I'll be a monkey's... =)

(saw your link at Jude's and had to click. I can't help myself)

My teens think it is hysterical that I have records (yes, the HUGE dusty old vinyl kind) but I went blithely into the world of digital publishing.

Welcome to Bloglandia!

LurkerMonkey said...


I have a 13-year-old son who collects heavy metal on vinyl ... and he's still angry about the collection of vinyl I gave away BEFORE HE WAS BORN. Jeesh. Kids.

Zoe Winters said...

YAY, you're blogging now!

Only diamonds are forever silly monkey. :P

But yeah, I agree. And as long as print books don't go away in my lifetime, I'm fine with it. Because I swear, as God as My Witness, I will never read my books on an e-reader (unless I'm on an airplane, but ONLY then.) Wow, that parenthetical statement took the punch out of that, but I hate ebooks. Books should be as disconnected from technology as possible in my opinion. It's an escape from too much technology.

Books are portable magic, and I think when you need batteries for it, it's less magical.

Adding you to my blogroll now, bitchez!

Zoe Winters said...

Also, I think it's borderline brilliant that they've named your blog in such a way it's sure to be at the TOP of an alphabetized blogroll. I clearly didn't think of that issue, hahaha!

LurkerMonkey said...

Yeah, well this is a lesson you learn when you're named "VanZile" in grade school. I'm convinced that most of my well-documented behavior problems were caused by my always being stuck in the back of the class. When I grow up, maybe I'll change my name to 1Zile.

Zoe Winters said...

hahahahaha That's awesome! 1Zile hahahahaha

spyscribbler said...

"What kind of industry BEGS its distribution channels to overorder and then return half of its product?"

LOL, very good point! When put so simply it's so blaringly obvious it is was unwise! (I'm guessing it just evolved that way, and then they were stuck.)

I'm looking forward to the next wave. I'm looking forward to more e-pubbing, and I swear to God, every day I pray that it will mean higher profits for the actual authors.