By nature, literature has always remained somewhat conservative. I don't mean this in any political way, and I don't mean the content is too PG (I think that wave is almost over). When I say literature is a bit too conservative, I mean the concept of a book or publication. Literature has always been slow to react, as we saw with the Big 6's hesitance towards eBooks. And even though we're somewhere in the transition from print to digital, I don't think the eBook will ever save literature, so to speak. I've come up with 3 ideas for literature to save itself, or otherwise it might contribute to it's own death.
3. Product Placement
I've covered this topic in more detail during this blog post as I followed the story of Esquire and its attempt to keep print alive. You can read the full story here, but here's the skinny:
In order to generate revenue and maintain interactivity, Esquire now has an app for your smart phone, PC, Mac, or tablet that let's you clip, cut, copy, paste, etc. whole articles or just quotes and instantly share them online, so there's no need to find a digital copy, and this makes the print version nearly as interactive as the digital counterpart. Of course, you can use this same technique with their digital publications. This app also lets you snap a photo or scan the hyper-linked advertisements so you can check out the full details of the ad and share it too. Of course, this also brings more ad revenue in for Esquire.
I wouldn't doubt if we start to see advertisements with such interactivity in more publications, and probably, one day inside books. Although I despise commercials and advertisements as much as the next guy, I understand they are beneficial.
For such product placement to work, I believe there needs to be some sort of unwritten balance. For instance, you could have a character drink a Coke, but you don't need to know how smooth and rich the beverage is. I'd get into more examples about how NOT to do this, but then I would be committing the same dirty act.
My fear, however, is that more mainstream books - you can name 'em - will be loaded with ads. We need to remember, although interactive ads can pay the bills, they won't be of any help if the readers are annoyed by blatant revenue attempts.
2. Show n' Tell
Along with the Esquire advertisement revenue concept, I want to run with the idea of "sharing" information. As far as fiction novels are concerned, there's been a noticeable transition to digital, but I don't see eBooks as the future of publishing. I see them more as the CD-ROM.
Even though eBooks are generally cheaper and more convenient, they have to convince print lovers to transition. Here's the thing: You never have to choose. I read eBooks sometimes. I read print publications other times. It doesn't matter.
The big deal, though, is that eBooks have brought much to the table. Vooks, although relatively unknown, I think are what we'll see more of in the future. Check out this book to see how cool a Vook is.
Vooks are a form of eBooks that utilize many multimedia aspects. For instance, some books have hyper-linked footnotes for continued reading on a subject. Some chapters have videos tucked inside. They're very interactive, and they're not nearly as conservative as the popular form of eBooks.
I like this idea of interactivity, but I think it's a bit misguided. Having videos and pictures in your book is certainly cool, but I think it distracts the reader. It's great for text- and cookbooks, but it may not be the best answer for fiction.
What needs to happen is the instant ability to show people where you are in a book - in real-time - and the ability to share quotes, snippets, etc. Publishing companies, if they decide interactivity is why everything else works and literature doesn't, will be hesitant when tackling the idea of "sharing".
If you have a Nook or Kindle, you might've noticed you can't copy and paste everywhere on the device, or in some cases, even at all. This is because of copyright laws.
Let me say this: Promotion is good. You need people to share little snippets, even the darlings we find throughout many books. The music industry had a big problem with copyright laws, but it found multiple ways of working with and around it. Now the music industry is recovering.
Publishers are notoriously slow. If they wait too long to let you share from within a book, digital or print, even more once-avid readers will slowly walk away.
1. Kinda Sorta Digital
Many people wonder if books will disappear from shelves, only to be found online or on your eReader for download. I don't think this will happen. At least not for awhile.
Awhile back, I wrote about the idea of literacy. The term didn't exist until the Gutenberg Press was used to mass produce books. This was the first time many people had access to literature, especially the less wealthy, and the term "literate" was born, meaning you could read and comprehend what was written and, consequently, write to a certain degree.
Then came the digital age. See, the Gutenberg press was our way of sharing information quicker. The internet is our key tool now. Whether its a digital format or a book you can hold in your hands, the content needs to be quality, and there has to be interactivity.
I personally think the idea of an application that interacts with your book would be handy, but we can do better than that. We need to create interative material that will encourage more people to read and actually use the technology. The reason we're so drawn to information on the internet is simply because we can consume it quicker, share it even faster, and we can contribute to it if we want. That's what publishers will need to consider during their next stage of evolution, which should've started yesterday.
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.