Well, well, well…I leave for a second and what happens? Chaos! And I didn’t even get to start it. Hmmph. Someone owes me a banana split or butterscotch sundae (raises eyebrow at spouse).
Seriously, for those readers twisting and turning about the whole ad-based, print-is/isn’t-dying, why-did-you-post-it-this-way-instead-of-that-way discussion, please do keep in mind the key word “discussion.” That’s what we do at the agency, at conferences, with family, and pretty much everywhere. It’s the heart of why people are attracted to the Internet. Discourse, discovery, the sharing of thoughts and ideas, and also an easy way to get pictures of Russell Crowe. But I digress.
Even between agents at the same agency, you will find matters in which they agree and disagree. We here at WMLA often have lively conversations, some heated, about all things publishing-related. I believe I have mentioned the ongoing mainstream versus genre argument that we regularly engage in, the irony of it being that we fundamentally agree but somehow Robert is always wrong and I am always right. At the end of the day, though—and I mean this literally—everything ends up with snuggles (between me and Robert, not Scott). Yes, literary agents snuggle, at least we do. I know. Take a moment. Try to wipe the image from your mind and we’ll move forward.
Okay. This post is about where I agree and disagree with Robert and Scott, or my take on the whole ad-based publishing endeavor and the future of publishing in general. I should warn you that I’m a change junkie. Born that way and I don’t know why. Change is good. Change is normal. Change is the way of all things. For some reason, I never go into a situation without thinking about how it could be changed to be better in some way. Do I welcome the changes in publishing and in my profession in general? Oh, yes. I can't wait. I can't wait to see what the literary Phoenix looks like as it rises from the ashes. I think current publishing is irrevocably flawed and needs, at the least, freshened up a bit. How that plays out has yet to be seen, but promises to be very, very entertaining.
As you can guess, this hasn’t always worked in my favor in the publishing industry, but sometimes it’s put me ahead of everyone else. Such is the nature of things and how I operate. To that end, my views on the industry extend across the spectrum, because with change comes many unknown factors and change junkies are always aware of those tiny unknowns that can throw the whole course of your prediction(s) off.
My response includes not only my thoughts on Scott’s post, but some of the commenters as well. First, do I believe all books will become e-books? No, not all of them. I think there will always be a niche population who desire or need them, so I don’t think that we can say e-books will be the only type of reading material in the future. Earth’s population is too diverse for that, and we have to take into consideration human limits and human physiology. There will be some people who simply can’t use e-books, just as there are those who function better with them.
I think Scott’s idea of ad placement has potential, but I believe that it would only evolve as its own branch of publishing rather than being the only publishing paradigm. I think that is key. I don’t think there is going to be one publishing model, because that doesn’t work for everyone, and in reality, there isn’t just one publishing model now. Some are just more familiar than others. I agree with Robert that some people will just turn off completely if ads are introduced, but I also think there will be generations of readers who are so used to ads, due to Google and Facebook and such, that they won’t care. This actually works against Scott’s idea in a way, but in a way it doesn’t. I still pay attention to ads I see in magazines and on Facebook, if they aren’t ridiculous come-ons, so I think it will be a generational thing. I think different demographics will be attracted to reading material presented in a variety of ways. Again, this is actually true now, but no one is really doing anything about it because the old model is so absolute. That, I think, is going to change in the next decade. And that’s a GOOD thing.
Robert is absolutely right about corporations, which is what book publishers are. Some are greedy. Some feel they are bastions of culture. None are going to go down without a fight. No new technology is going to be accepted until it proves profitable or inevitable, and anyone who’s been making money in an industry is going to have to choose whether to cut losses or grab a stake in the future mula-making. The current war between open source versus proprietary is only going to heat up. For every entity that believes individuals should be able to create their own fun, there’s an entity that believes they can provide a better experience based on their expertise.
I have more to say, but this has rambled on too long. I invite any questions or comments and will, as time permits, add more of my thoughts on the demise of publishing. Happy reading!--Sharene