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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Future of the Printed Word (ConCarolinas Writing Panel Notes)

Hi everyone, this was a busy week so I didn't get a chance to type up my notes like I was hoping. But here's the next panel I attended at ConCarolinas: The Future of the Printed Word.

As I've said before, this is just what I hastily scribbled down, so any errors here are likely mine and I apologize in advance. Feel free to ask if something I've noted here makes absolutely no sense at all.

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The Future of the Printed Word

Authors: Nathan P. Butler, Stuart Jaffe, Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, Nicole Kurtz
Moderator: Rob Shelsky

Question: What do you think the future of the printed word will be?

- A complete conversion to e-books is not going to happen anytime soon.
- There are court cases preventing that (e.g. a braille challenge)
- Not all students have access to the necessary technology
- However, pleasure reading is more likely to shift more toward e-books.

- Paperbacks might disappear completely.
- Hardcover might come back.
- All of this is still several years off
- The Kindle is made by folks who intuitively know books

- Paperbacks won’t disappear completely.
- Coffee-table books and picture books will be hard bound.
- E-book readers aren’t always useful
- Uses for e-books

- Mass Market will survive, but it will be more print-on-demand
- There will be a change between how bookstores buy from publishers – will see companies that don’t return books (big names) – publishers not accepting or bookstores not returning? (I forget the exact context)
- Paperbacks are expensive because 40% are stripped of their covers and sent back.
- The midlist will switch to e-books.
- The book publishers have the bargaining power.

- No one, not even publishers, knows what is going to happen.
- The e-publishing industry will be good for short fiction.
- Can sell a short story for 99 cents; will be a viable market.

- Short fiction publisher
- Thinks short stories are easiest to read on an e-reader
- But they still need EDITING and COVER ART.
- Word of mouth will be important: people get burned.
- Offer free samples!

Self-Publishing Discussion:
- The editorial processes are one of the weaknesses of self-publishing.
- Self-published work is missing the developmental editor.
- David: No author can effectively edit themselves.
- Nathan: “Self-publishing is the Star Wars prequels. You need to have someone to say no.”
- Stuart: Build your name, and people will associate your work with either crap or quality. Self-publishing is *work*.

On Editors:
- Be prepared to meet the editor halfway!
- We *need* proper editing.
- David: “You learn from your editor not only how to make your first book better. You learn how to write.”

Final Thoughts:
- David: “We’re looking at a chessboard mid-game.” (i.e. we don’t quite know how it’s going to turn out yet, but everyone is thinking strategy.
- E-books are instant gratification.
- E- book readers can be either digital immigrants or digital natives – some have learned technology, some have grown up with it.
- E-books allow midlist writers to keep selling.
- Writers need to be businesspeople.
- Publishers are likely going to start banding together with services to fight piracy (illegal downloads).
- When the dust settles, a typical writer’s career will look very different from what it does now.


  1. Nice summary.
    I think the link between e-book and self published is very strong because:
    1. e-books are the best way a person can self publish (distribution, sales, low entry cost)
    2. When people go shopping for an e-book they don't want to spend as much as they do on a paper book. Most self published e-books are between $1 and $4 so that's what people see first.

    E-books have a place, and it will be an ever larger place. Particularly for travel readers. eg: on the daily commute it is much easier to keep your books in a Kindle than getting all messed up in your bag.

    SJohnHughes (Scion on Magical Words)
    My Blog at wordpress

  2. Thanks, Scion! It will be interesting to see where things go. I liked David's comment about this being a chess board mid-game.