The New Publishing Age
By Pat Mullan
In June I flew from Ireland to New York. As usual I stuffed a paperback – a fat one, about 400 pages – into my carry-on bag. I had really wanted to take a hardback I’d been reading at home but that was impractical.
As my fellow travelers and I waited at the boarding gate in Shannon, many of us fumbled with our books, newspapers, boarding passes, and passports. Even those of us with a practiced expertise dropped our bookmarks or momentarily panicked when we thought we’d mislaid our boarding pass.
But, in the midst of all of this, one mature, conservatively dressed lady of middle-age sat unflustered and unencumbered, completely absorbed in the book she was reading: an electronic book, an e-book reader, slim, practical, elegant. I envied her and promised myself that I would join this digital revolution.
I had written previously, on Backspace, about the Amazon Kindle, when I had heralded its arrival. But my promise to join this digital revolution did not mean that I had a sudden impulse to buy a Kindle or a Sony reader and abandon the printed word. Wikipedia will tell you that ‘analogous to the Agricultural Revolution and Industrial Revolution, the Digital Revolution marked the beginning of the Information Age.’ And I would call it the beginning of a New Publishing Age. And this New Publishing Age is accessible to all because it has arrived with its own utility, the internet, the ‘information highway’, where social networks have transformed this digital revolution into a viral revolution.
Competition to provide the vehicles for that highway, the Kindle, the Sony, the iPad will intensify. Already we see the headlines: ‘Amazon sells more Kindle books than hardbacks’, ‘Publishers negotiating for ‘new world order’ with Google’, iBooks the winner as iPad gains positive feedback’, ‘iBookstore books cheaper to buy in print and via Kindle, ‘W H Smith slashes prices as e-book war intensifies’, ‘Wylie Agency to bypass publishers and license authors’ e-book rights’, ‘Agents and publishers grapple over ‘enhanced’ e-book rights’, ‘Stieg Larsson has continued to dominate e-book sales’, ‘Simon & Schuster launches digital interactive book’, ‘Random House digs in over e-book rights’, ‘US author Seth Godin to bypass ‘fundamentally broken’ publishers’ …
Seth Godin states that the present publishing world is ‘fundamentally broken’ and says ‘I finally figured out that my customer wasn’t the reader or the book buyer, it was the publisher. If the editor didn’t buy my book, it didn’t get published’. He continues: ‘Authors need publishers because they need a customer. Readers have been separated from authors by many levels – stores, distributors, media outlets, printers, publishers – there were lots of layers for many generations, and the editor with a checkbook made the process palatable to the writer. Traditional book publishers use techniques perfected a hundred years ago to help authors reach unknown readers, using a stable technology (books) and an antique and expensive distribution system.’
That publishing world is about to change. Bookseller Borders Group in the US has unveiled a new concept – a store where shoppers can mix and burn CDs, explore their genealogies and even publish their own novels. Their chief executive George Jones said, ‘If you don’t have something you do better than the other guys, then frankly the customer doesn’t really need you. This is really intermingling the typical bricks and mortar with the Internet and Digital Worlds.’ Simon & Schuster chief executive Carolyn Reidy has appointed Elinor Hirschhorn as chief digital officer. Reidy and Hirschhorn say, “We are determined to avail ourselves to the maximum extent of the digital era opportunities to find, interact, and deliver content instantaneously and around the clock to our readers worldwide. Publishing is at an exciting and transitional moment, with both the nature of books and the relationship among authors, publishers and their readers evolving in new ways.”
Open Road Integrated Media, founded by Former HarperCollins chief Jane Friedman to publish e-books drawn from known and unknown authors, is another agent of change that defines my own vision of this new world. Their e-books will be marketed through a proprietary platform “designed to reach consumers where they live, socialize and shop online,” Freidman says, “We believe that a story should live everywhere, on all screens, and to that end I look forward to working with authors and agents to create enhanced e-books that place their stories at the front and center of a multi-media universe”.
Many years ago I emigrated from Ireland to North America. I did not fly. Instead I went by ship from Liverpool and, as I entered the St.Lawrence, I felt like one of the early pioneers. Today I feel like a pioneer again, an immigrant into this New Publishing Age. I have taken my first tentative steps with my anthology, Pat Mullan’s GALWAY NOIR (published on-line by iPulp Fiction www.ipulpfiction.com ) which will be presented to my readers, story by story, segment by segment. From there I will explore this exciting new world.
Pat Mullan was born in Ireland and has lived in England, Canada and the USA. Formerly a banker, he now lives in Connemara, in the west of Ireland.
He has published articles, poetry and short stories in magazines such as Buffalo Spree, Tales of the Talisman, Writers Post Journal. His poetry appears frequently in the Acorn E-zine of the Dublin Writers Workshop.
Recent work has appeared in the anthology, Dublin Noir, published in the USA by Akashic Books and in Ireland and the UK by Brandon Books.
He received two nominations: one for Best First Novel and one for Best Suspense Thriller at the 2005 Love Is Murder conference in Chicago. His last novel, Blood Red Square, was published in the US (LBF Books, 2005).
World Rights to his novel, THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL, are available from his agent, Svetlana Pironko at Author Rights Agency. ( www.authorrightsagency.com )
He is presently at work on a new novel, tentatively titled CREATURES OF HABIT.