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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How literature is evolving in the digital age

An interesting article from Time magazine takes a look at how literature is evolving in the digital age. The article discusses a number of topics that factor into the change including the outdated business models that have guided the industry for years, the increasing popularity of self-publishing, and how for the first time in history, novels are becoming detached from the dollar with the rise of fan fiction websites that carry free novels written by amateurs. Additionally, the author provides his take on what the publishing future will look like. He explains,
"More books, written and read by more people, often for little or no money, circulating in a wild diversity of forms, both physical and electronic... If readers want to pay for the old-school premium package, they can get their literature the old-fashioned way: carefully selected and edited, and presented in a bespoke, art-directed paper package. But below that there will be a vast continuum of other options: quickie print-on-demand editions and electronic editions for digital devices, with a corresponding hierarchy of professional and amateur editorial selectiveness. (Unpaid amateur editors have already hit the world of fan fiction, where they're called beta readers.) The wide bottom of the pyramid will consist of a vast loamy layer of free, unedited, Web-only fiction, rated and ranked YouTube-style by the anonymous reading masses." He goes on to add that fiction will be, "Like fan fiction, it will be ravenously referential and intertextual in ways that will strain copyright law to the breaking point. Novels will get longer--electronic books aren't bound by physical constraints--and they'll be patchable and updatable, like software.

Recently we have begun to see some examples of publishers moving to pure e-formats for selected content and finding ways to monetize the new way of releasing fiction. In the future, we could see consumers shift away from content abundance and rely on respectable publishers to do the editing and presentation. In turn, this could drive publishers back to their core competence of editing and compiling information - leaving the delivery, formatting, and consumer choice of access to other companies and technologies.

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