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The Future of Books and a Contest

August 6, 2010

When I realized that our subject this week was the future of books and e-books in the next five years, it gave me pause. It wasn’t as if I was completely clueless with regard to the task at hand; I have had the good fortune of having my debut novel published as an e-book. The issue for me was not the meat and potatoes of the dish, but rather the art of preparing the meal. I wrote the novel, but my wonderful publisher Gaynor was the one who handled all of the details.

The e-book: By this time, most people are aware of just exactly what this is. “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet” (My thanks to Mr. Shakespeare). It’s just a book. It won’t bite you! Although, a good one will leave a mark. One can download an e-book to their computer, iPhone, e-reader, etc. Most of us not only have personal computers, Laptops and gadgets galore, but have multiples of each! 

The e-future: Imagine if you will that you have just finished reading a very good book. Are you ready to put it down? What if there was more content? Books often carry advertisements for past works by the author or for a forthcoming title, other times the book might include a sample of what’s coming. What if the e-book was something called an enhanced e-book? Not only could it carry the usual, but so much more. Picture if you will the ordinary Facebook wall. Most of us have a Facebook account or at least have seen one. Can you see the video links and photos there? Instead of snippets of what the individual has been up to or what their friends have posted on their wall, I want you to envision the pages of a book. Are you reading The Lord of the Rings? Off to the right there is a series of photos. Are you reading Stephen King? Between paragraph one and two is a photo of Bangor, Maine. Better yet, how about a short video walk-thru of the town. Pat Conroy? Now you do not have to imagine what his south looks like, you could simply click the link. 

I know what you are going to say. It’s the same argument against music video. Now that I have seen the stupid video, it has robbed my imaginative mind of being able to simply take the lyrics and create my own visual in my head. Okay, forget the photos and links. What if the start of the enhanced e-book contained a brief author’s note, where a film began upon your choosing and the author herself thanked you, her faithful reader, for purchasing her work and gave the simplest of introductions. What if the end of the e-book contained an interview session where the author explained the muse for his story or offered other tidbits. Wouldn’t that be something? Who knows exactly what the future might bring, but folks, it is coming

The Real topic: That was what I was hoping to write about this week. Unfortunately, thanks to all of the comments that I have seen recently from readers claiming that you can take their books from them when you pry them from their cold, dead fingers – we have to talk about something else. Has everybody seen Moonstruck? I hadn’t until recently. I love romantic comedies, but must have had some sort of bias against this one for some crazy reason. In any event, I finally saw it, and liked it. So, with regard to the bias that many continue to cling to in terms of being unwilling to embrace e-books: I say, (borrowing Cher’s famous line) “Snap out of it!” 

Cher and Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck

Forgive me, I’m not writing of those who have said that they cannot yet afford a Kindle or one of the other e-readers out there. It was easy for me. My wife has money! Just kidding. I’m speaking to those who get all nostalgic for paper, curling up in bed with their favorite book or simply their love of  bookstores. This is not the first time that this kind of thing has happened. We have gone through this before.  

This past spring the Blockbuster in my small town of 12,000 or so souls closed. It’s a Real Estate now. When I was a teenager we went through periods where we had between two and five video rental stores. Then everyone decided that they should abandon the mom and pop places for the big sexy chain, thus forcing the mom and pops out of business. Now that we can order movies through cable, our computers, our Wii’s, etc., we don’t necessarily need Blockbuster anymore. And so it goes…  

Quick, somebody hand me a cassette. A what? Yeah, that’s what I thought. I might still have a few cassettes lying around the house, probably stored in the garage. If so, they won’t work now. Not that I have anything to play them on anymore! Not only that, I’ve long-since replaced those with CD. While we’re on the subject, all of those CD’s have been digitally transferred to my pc. They are available for me to listen to when I’m on my pc (like now – I’m listening to Asia), or my iPod (I’m pushing 7000 songs there) or my iPhone. My dad still has an old reel to reel. I haven’t seen it in a while, but I’m certain that it is there since my parents don’t believe in tossing anything out! Soon, we might not even need to store music. Our devices will simply access “the cloud” where our account is recognized and our purchased/stored music content simply streamed to our device. I don’t know a lot about it just yet, but guess what: it’s coming, too!  

Back to my wife. When the Kindle showed up magically at our doorstep a few months ago, she gave me that frown. “What did you do?” the frown asked. Yet, guess who uses it more than I do? And so will you. Trust me.  

The Contest: If you are still speaking to me after all of that, we have a contest for you. Wicked Writers is giving away a copy of my e-book, Dance on Fire. Ha! What else could it have been? The contest will run for two weeks. To be eligible, please leave a comment, along with your e-mail address in case you are declared the winner. We also would love it if you signed up for the e-mail delivery option, but will not make it mandatory. I would like to leave you with a note about my book. It is a horror/Christian crossover about vampires. It is a PG-13 story, so don’t let the horror label scare you away. It is Christian, but contains some blood and guts and does not get too preachy. There’s a bit of romance, too! See, it has everything. How could one possibly lose? Okay, don’t answer that.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. Robert C. Nelson permalink
    August 6, 2010 1:51 pm

    Very nice post, James. I’m so green I leave stains on furniture I sit on, so whatever it takes to keep the earth healthy…This is just one of many ways. I have yet to purchase a device, but I can read ebooks on my computer, and I’m doing it. I’m also liking it.

    Good luck with all your writing endeavors!

  2. August 6, 2010 2:09 pm

    Ha, ha, James, another great post. I have a whole playlist that goes with one of my stories and wouldn’t that be wonderful if a reader could option to hear it, as the inspiration for the scene I was writing. I know every time I hear some songs I remember those minutes, tears streaming down my face (it was the I’ll never see you again scene), when the nice gentleman in the corner came over, offered a napkin and asked if I was okay. And an author interview? Sort of like the “enhanced” DVDs we get with the bloopers, deleted scenes and director or actor interviews. I sometimes enjoy those more than the movie.

    Yeah, just think about what’s in store, if we keep our eyes open. No, nothing can replace a good book as you wiggle your toes in the sand at the shore under a floppy hat (not you, of course), or cuddling under a quilt on a dark and stormy night. And remember reading those forbidden ones at church camp with a flashlight–I always got caught. Nothing will replace those experiences, but I love thinking about how enhanced ebooks can be, and look forward to the day when….


    • August 6, 2010 3:58 pm

      I always have to buy the huge Collector’s Edition dvd’s w/ all of the extra stuff. I’d never put that book down! You don’t think I could pull off that floppy hat? Morrison pulled off the fur coat look? Yeah, I know: he was Mr Mojo Risin!!
      Thanks for the note, Sharon.

  3. August 6, 2010 2:35 pm

    This is the way of things. I can still remember resisting CDs–until I heard my first one. In 20 years, a whole generation will wonder why the heck people made such a commotion about going digital.

    • August 6, 2010 4:01 pm

      On the other hand, when my book goes paperback this fall you can bet I’ll be sleeping with that thing under my pillow! Lol! Thanks, Maria.

  4. August 6, 2010 4:16 pm

    Great post, James!

    I am still in love with actual books, but I know that eventually I’ll be getting on the digital bandwagon. That’s definitely where we’re headed, and I think it’s a good thing for readers.

    I’d love to win James’ book. I’m intrigued at how horror and Christian and romance can all be tangled in the same pages!

    • August 7, 2010 12:42 am

      Well, thank you, Julie. I would have answered you sooner, but I have been in that second bathroom all day. I’ve been painting this second week of my vacation. Two bathrooms with new mirrors mounted, new paint, new decorations. Whew! I’m going to sit for these next two days.
      Thanks for mentioning the contest. Extra credit for you! 😉

  5. August 6, 2010 6:10 pm

    Nice post – excellent topics. The future of e-books is just beginning, and those who prefer to stick to paper can hang with gramps!

  6. george allwynn permalink*
    August 6, 2010 8:40 pm

    Great post, James!

    I liked the way you compared things with evolution of Blockbuster and the cassette. With that in mind, I went even further…

    We had the horse, we had the buggy, we had the horseless buggy, we have the automobile. What will we have next?

    We had the chisel and stone. We graphite and board, we had parchment and ink, we had paper and pen, we had typewriter and ink ribbon, we had the keyboard and ink cartridge – and in some cases, a laser printer cartridge. What’s next?

    First we had word of mouth. That lead up to the telegraph, then the telephone, and now the cell phone. When will the next form come? Or has it already arrived with Skype?

    We started out with a crank, a tin can of sorts with small slots of metal coming out, hitting slim metal rods. Next came wax disks with grooves, vinyl records with grooves, then reel to reel tape, 8-track tapes, cassettes, CDs, digital audio tape -going into digital format we download in the forms of MP3

    And I don’t need to get redundant and mention the whole radio/moving pictures/television/cable/VCRs/DVDs – and all that gives me a headache to try to sort out…

    Things change. Life changes. We as humans change.

    What doesn’t change stagnates and eventually dies out.

    As nostalgic as I am, I really do see nothing but positive growth for everything connected to the e- industry for the next five years.

    The good ol’ boys publishing club in NYC may be stubborn – but it’s that staunch attitude and lack of foresight that will sink major publishing houses hell-bent on doing things their way.

    The Independent spirit of e-publishing will succeed, offering imagination parched readers a chance to taste new thoughts and new ideas from refreshing authors writing stories that would have never passed in the old school.

    This will lead to a story revolution – and readers will pick and choose from a buffet of various subjects and a mixture of genres to delight the senses and goose the imagination!

    All this, pouring from the exciting and vibrate world of the e-book and it’s family of e-related publishing nitches.

  7. August 7, 2010 12:52 am

    Sniff! Sniff! I miss my vinyl! I miss yellow Tower Records bags, getting in my car just to go to the record store, that new album smell, looking at the photos and listening along while I read through the lyrics… Oh! Hi. I didn’t see you there. What were we talking about?
    Just Kidding. Thanks, George.

  8. August 7, 2010 8:05 am

    Great points made here – especially love the DVD and cassette comparison, Jimmy. I’ve got my Kindle, now I just have to start buying books and reading on it! Of course, it would help if I downloaded the existing ebooks on it that I own – I just haven’t figured that part out yet.

    George – you may enjoy a post I did a few months back that compared the music industry to publishing:

    It’s not ground breaking, by any means, but I learned a lot talking to my friend Andy.

  9. August 9, 2010 6:51 pm

    Hi James

    Ebooks, what a big subject. I’ve given my opinion time and time again, but you’ve said it so much better. I like to add the voice of The Buggles to this, with their classic one hit wonder “Video Killed the Radio Star”. Contrary to the song’s prediction, video, nor more recently CDs and DVDs haven’t killed radio stations, cinemas or anything else. We may have changed how we listen to music or how we watch films, but “The Song Remains The Same”. Similarly, paper books aren’t dead or dying, they’re changing. Over the next few years a better system for lending ebooks will evolve and this will become the new mass market paperback option, the inexpesive way for mass production of literature priced for mass consumption.

    Readers will love the easy access to novels and the price, once everything settles down in publishing. Once the price stablises, everyone will come out a winner. Publishers will be able to take more chances on new and exciting talent. The investment, though still high, will drop and, by not having to invest in long print runs of untested writers, the minds of publishers may become open to change. Many writers, who under the old regime would never be published, will see their novels published and read, some will even make some real money from it and the few writers who now dominate the racks in bookshops will have some hefty competition.

    So all ebooks will do is clear our homes of the hundreds of cheap paperbacks. No more trips to the recycling depot with bin bags full of paperbacks. Win, win as far as I’m concerned and as for the novels, if I love then I’ll buy a copy for my bookshelves because I collect books. Novels could be the same as films, where if you enjoy a film at the cinema, you also buy the DVD for your collection.

    Really interesting post James.

    • James Garcia Jr permalink*
      August 11, 2010 10:30 pm

      Thanks. I would have replied sooner, but now I’m having issues with my pc. I hope to be back up soon.

  10. August 11, 2010 4:28 pm

    Great post, James… I’m with you on your take of the power of e-books. I believe ebook content is not there yet! Not only that, it has a long way to go! Just as with the PCs of the 80’s and 90’s, a mere replacement of the typewritter (or calculator) was missing the point! Just look at a PC now! The books of the future will not work in paper! The book will not be a book as we know it today – that is when the book will be dead, but not before!

    Long live the book! 🙂

    • August 11, 2010 4:29 pm

      And what is more, I’ll probably be long gone… pushing the daisies, before I have to worry about the end of paperbacks! 🙂

      • August 11, 2010 6:18 pm

        But if you wrote paranormal, you come back again and again and try it all over, or live forever.

      • James Garcia Jr permalink*
        August 11, 2010 10:34 pm

        I’m sure they will be beautiful daisies, however! Kidding. Thanks to everyone for keeping the dialogue going well into the 2nd week.

      • August 12, 2010 6:30 am

        Well, despite visions of paranormal groundhogs, I guess being late to the party has its uses! 🙂

  11. August 12, 2010 1:02 pm

    James, Sorry so late in making a comment here. It’s been a crazy week for me. As always wonderful post! I feel like mine are a bit drap compared to the humorous and yet inspriational posts you come up with! I guess I need to dig deep and find my sense of humor and write some great stuff. (My hubby says I”m not funny btw, so this might take some serious digging.)

    And I DO remember cassettes! Although I’m one of the younger ones of this group. I remember vinyl too and 8-track tapes but only because my parents still held on to their collections from high school. (First album I remember listening to was Pink Floy “Dark Side of the Moon” on vinyl!!) I love all the digital but there is something about the scratchy vinyl sound that just can’t be beat – it’s the best.

    • James Garcia Jr permalink*
      August 12, 2010 10:54 pm

      Hi, Ana. Thanks for the note. Better late than never, right?
      Did you smack your hubs for telling you that you were not funny in your posts? Sometimes I think myself too serious, certainly that author’s photo is. That’s so staged!
      Dark Side of the Moon was the first cd I bought, btw.

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