I’ve been invited yesterday to an open discussion on this subject: “What would Jules Verne say about the future of the books?”. For me, it was like a deep breath of fresh air, talking and listening to people that I could only hope still exist: the next generation of book editors, publishers and retailers; all young, smart and eager to live the digital book (r)evolution.
It was more of a jam session, and here are some trails that still persist in my mind:
– The future fantasy book will shrink to novel dimensions due to time, life speed and other ergonomic reasons;
– Non-fantasy books need to be indexed by search engines (via meta-tags). Imagine you’ll search for “coq au vin” and get a specific passage of a French cuisine book, instead of the whole 200 pages book.
– Editors won’t disappear but become authorities; in a world of massive “Like” and “comment”, professional rating and reviewing will be priceless.
– Another editors’ role that’ll continue to exist is “writing accelerators”, by “nursing” the writers. Some writers need to be softly managed to stay within deadlines and adjust their fire.
– “Collaborative writing” may become a trend, if handled carefully by editors. The threat is the writing to end up in a kitschy story;
– The writers won’t move a muscle from their desktops, due to self-publishing, rented logistics and marketing. The 2 categories of writers will be: the ones that “need a massage at 2 AM”, nursed by editors, and the other ones with strong entrepreneurial abilities that’ll go “do-it-yourself”.
– “Write as they read” like of publishing: using updates, readers’ feedback and so on, the authors will be able to modify or update the content on the go.
– “Book remix” – there was a long fight over this; the main idea was writers to be able to use, modify and resell fragments of copyrighted materials. Although it may look counter-intuitive, the idea is not bad. Let’s say I copy a text, pay a percent of the new remixed book’s price to the initial licenser (instead of a fix price), then the rest is my money. This should be one shared revenue model that could change a lot in the future. The issue seems to reside in identifying and marking the protected fragment that would “cascade royalties”.
– “Cross-media” products: the ebook will no longer be text only, but a mix of interactive graphics, movie clips and so on.
– “Social media commenting” shall be one big opportunity for pushing, shouting and even creating content.
Although everything seems to tell us the books will never die, in my opinion books are “not really there”, yet. They are not ready for mass consumption, yet, but hopefully they are transforming under our eyes.