I’ve just posted these thoughts on https://kiwiconnexion.nz where stimulating discussions are going on about the nature and future of books.
The value of a book
In the beginning was the story and the storyteller told her stories to a few other people at a time. Then the listeners shared the the story as they remembered it to a few other people.
The best stories moved people and became a part of their culture, and who they were, and were treasured because they were true. And the storytellers told the stories to their grandchildren and the stories lived on.
Then the stories were written down – on clay tablets, on parchment, on smooth tanned animal hides. And the stories were now separate from the storyteller and could be spread to the next village and the next town without the storyteller traveling there. And the stories were copied and read and told and grew.
And wisdom could now be retained and passed to the next generations and the community prospered.
And the stories became books and the books were copied and each new copy changed the story – by accident or on purpose – and the stories grew and grew.
But writing the stories by hand was a pain and took a long time. So better ways were invented and lots of copies of the book could now be printed at one time. And everyone could now read the stories about God and important things. And new ideas were shared and evolved and soon no one person could hold in their head everything there was to know in the world. And the stories grew. And the books huddled together in libraries for warmth on the cold nights.
And the people enjoyed having lots of books in one place and read as many as they could, and the stories grew.
As a publisher, I’m part of this long tradition and evolution. My job is to enable authors to share their stories with people who want to read them. Books are the conduit that take ideas from one person’s mind to another person’s.
I take an author’s words, and create a product to share and sell. About 16 years ago I learned how to create print books, and sent PDFs to the printers. Three years ago I taught myself how to create eBooks in ePub and Kindle formats, and discovered short run print-on-demand processes that make producing print books economic.
A couple of the online articles that have been shared here in the last day or so decry the commercialism of eBooks and predict that ePub and Kindle are going to die soon. Naw, don’t think so.
Whether you like or loath Amazon.com and all the other big online eBook marketplaces like Kobo and Apple, the rise of this technology has made it possible for authors who would previously have submitted manuscripts to publishers, to actually self-publish and market their own books. Some are just earning pocket money on the side, others are making a decent living as writers and a few have made $millions. Dominic Crossan has described Jesus as a “paradigm shift in Jewish apocalyptic eschatology.” EBook production and online selling comes pretty comes to this as a game changer in my view.
If you have now, or can learn, the skills to self-publish, then you as a writer now have the power to share your stories with the whole world. I recommend that writers visit Joanna Penn’s website http://www.thecreativepenn.com/ and especially listen to the podcast interviews she does with all sorts of people in book world, to keep up-to-date with the best and latest ideas.
I have found a niche providing a service to authors who have stories to tell and information to share, but want someone else to package their content into a book, make it available on a bunch of sales channels and help them to sell it. From one manuscript I create several products. For example, Anne Stephenson’s new book Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions (http://pgpl.co.nz/?page_id=55280) is now available as an ePub, Kindle or PDF eBook, and as a print-on-demand book from CreateSpace and Amazon.com. The NZ print edition is being produced now and will be available in two weeks. So that’s 5 products from one book. Another fairly easy option would be to record the text as an audiobook (to sell as a zipped collection of mp3 files), which opens up some more markets.
David, you are wanting to take this further by creating multimedia online books which combine text, images, sound, video, links…, and pose the question, what is a book?
I have skills to offer on producing and selling some specific formats of books. You have video creation and Mahara platform skills. My children have skills in musical performance, illustration, photography, film making, video and sound recording and editing – that make me proud and warm my heart. Their creativity inspires me to keep going in my little niche, and to ponder the next publishing developments.
I think that a book is any medium or product or artifact that enables people to share stories and ideas. And in the end that’s where the value lies. You can’t beat reading a novel and getting wrapped up in the characters’ world or reading a theology book and having a new idea hit and discomfort you like a Wellington wind gust. The format isn’t important.
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