The Future of the Novel is… Social? Video? Print?
I’m the contrarian – I don’t think print is dying out at all. I’m a Kindle skeptic and ebook reader skeptic. My hypothesis is that it’s harder to do one thing at a time with a computer. It’s hard to consume a novel in 5 minute snippets punctuated by RSS checking. And ebook readers will have those functions. I don’t think that supports novel reading…
Novels are competing for attention with other media that can be peeled off from them. At the same time, novels are social objects and the web is social technology.
Cory Doctorow — award-winning author, technology activist, co-editor of Boing Boing — is a controversial figure in publishing because of his views on copyright (“If culture loses the copyright wars, the reason for copyright dies with it.), but he brings some unique credentials to the overall digital debate that often leaves the future of the novel out of the discussion.
The interview above, via io9, is an interesting read, and his take on ebooks and observation that novels are social objects stood out in light of former Soft Skull publisher Richard Nash’s fledgling “social publishing” start-up, Cursor.
In an interview on loudpoet.com (my personal site), Nash describes social publishing from the reader’s perspective:
For the reader-as-reader, what “social” means is that there’s going to be more information about books, more scope to interact with the books (your own commenting & annotating and reading others’), more scope to interact with the author, more scope to interact with one another. (This latter item, to get semi-techy for a sec, is something that the broad horizontal book social networks—Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari—do well, though, so we’re likely to focus on using their APIs rather than asking people to build their own bookshelves anew.)
“Social” is taking the book and making it much easier to have a conversation with the book and its writer, and have conversations around the book and its writer.
Yesterday’s big story, the debut of Vook’s digital book format, added another wrinkle to the discussion about the future of the novel, as its multimedia capabilities offer the possibility of a radio:TV paradigm shift, but as Don Linn noted on Twitter, “The #vook question nobody is asking: As a reader, how much value does it add and how much extra would you pay for it?”
Is the Vook platform, which includes some intriguing social media elements, the natural evolution of the novel in a digital age, or is it just the latest “kewl” tech for tech’s sake?
Nash and Linn will both appear on the Digital Book World panel, “New Business Models: Changing the Commercial Rules of Publishing“, and Brad Iman, Vook CEO and Founder, will appear on the panel “Optimizing Ebooks: Cost-Effective Enhancements, Updates and Multimedia Options“.
Both promise to be provocative discussions about the future of the novel and the digital book.