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Digital Publishing: Liberating the Content from the Container

July 10, 2012

Kali, Avatar of the eBook, by Javier Candeira, Creative Commons Licence

Will paper books disappear? John Birmingham thinks those on the midlist will. We can’t predict what will happen, he said, but it’s likely that only two types of books will survive in physical form: massive best sellers such as Stephanie Meyer and Stephen King, and higher value books that provide guaranteed sales in smaller numbers, such as those illustrating an artist’s works.

Birmingham, the Gordon Ramsay of Australian writing, was speaking at the recent Australian Society of Authors E-Exchange Day in Brisbane. He told of how digital publishing is changing the world for writers. For his next three-ebook deal for his alternative history thrillers he is writing all three books together, and then releasing them a month apart. Such books are becoming shorter – 30,000 rather than 160,000 words – and story lines will play out over 7 or 8 ebooks, like a serial. He suggested that novelists think about breaking their novels into several shorter ebooks.

At the E-Exchange, six innovators and experts in digital publishing described the plethora of opportunities and pitfalls for writers that the new technology brings. Kate Eltham, outgoing CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre and incoming Director of the Brisbane Writers Festival, gave a comprehensive overview of the many new publishing models. Separation of container and content enables the book to be a process, no longer just a thing, she said, and as a result authors now have more control and more choices. Contract consultant Alex Adsett spoke about the pitfalls of the new models, and recommended the Digital Publishing Australia Guide.

Ebooks for children’s stories? Not a good idea. But I was entranced by the Blue Quoll ipad apps demonstrated by Vincenzo Pingatelli – they provide a genuine bedtime reading experience.

How does one become visible in this new world? Pingatelli suggested designing your website so that it attracts people, using resources such as Google Adwords Keywords Tool. This helps build community which is more sustainable than marketing methods such as advertising (see his website, The Drawing Factory). Eighteen-year old Steph Bowe also created a community through her blog, which she uses to promote her Young Adult novels. She said that building a small but engaged audience is better than chasing high statistics.

Nerida Fearnley described the book, print-on-demand (POD) and ebook services of Ingram Content Group, whose mission is “helping content reach its destination.” She described how writers can use the print-to-order model of the company’s POD division, Lightning Source. POD began in 1997, and now has nine million titles.

With the presenters all on the leading edge of digital publishing, the E-Exchange was invaluable for the small group of participants. It is a pity that more writers did not attend. As the movie “The Artist” shows (see The Insistent Conquest of a New Technology), we should be alive to the greater opportunities for story-telling that new technology can give us.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 10, 2012 6:10 pm

    Reblogged this on BookRepublic.

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