‘This chance for change’
At our FutureBook 2015 Conference on the 4th of December, we will hear from two writers of our manifestos on the future of the book business. Those two “manifestistas” will be announced in coming days, and in the meantime, we will be contacting all contributors of published manifestos with a special offer for attending the conference.
As we prepare to make the announcement of which manifestos will be heard at the Mermaid in London on the 4th, it’s well worth taking a little time to appreciate this unusual body of work.
My colleague Philip Jones at The Bookseller made the call for manifestos leading up to the conference on the 7th of July. By the first of September, he had dubbed them our “magnificent manifestos,” noting “how the articles submitted reflect the changed and changing publishing scene, noting the frustrations as well as the successes.”
And by the time we have run all of them—several still are in the queue—we will have seen more than 30. And what a group they form, richly eclectic, deeply felt, seriously intended. From “voices off”—people rarely heard at the center of our daily publishing debates—to players frequently at the center of the conversation, these pieces have an interesting character all their own.
Singly, they offer surprises, memorable phrases, sometimes unusual viewpoints, and the energy of pure purpose: each, after all, is written to argue a single point or concept.
Taken as a group, this chorus is quite Greek: there are times when these writings seem to gather the weight of prophesy and the breadth of experience.
For example, the Trajectory c.e.o. Jim Bryant, prominently speaking at many conferences this year, shows us an almost rhapsodic side when, at the end of his piece, he shares a dream that flies far past the moment’s efforts in international digital distribution:
The ultimate future, which I believe we will glimpse in our lifetime, is a point of singularity where authors and readers connect directly. We will reach this point when an author, perhaps in cooperation with an editor or content curator, will release a single copy of their work that will be simultaneously translated into every language and made available to everyone on the planet who has defined their interests to include the unique content of the book.
And there’s exasperation here at times, real frustration, real heat, as in the “print-under-glass” rejection of current ebooks by interactive narrative specialist Tom Abba:
The best we have are books under glass, enhancements with video and clicking and audio. Imprisoned and ridiculed and not what was promised. The book is not dead. Print is kicking and the novel is breathing. Writers are poor and you are squandering opportunities. This chance for change, for real disruption.
Repeat after me.
Abba’s hardly alone. Proofreader and typesetter Catherine Dunn looks at the ebook and sees more potential than many others, too:
We’re witnessing the birth of a new art form. At first, like all new technology, its most exciting manifestations will only be accessible to geeky enthusiasts and the super-rich, but eventually it will change the literary landscape as we know it. If we could see the future, it’d blow our minds.
That enthusiasm is a hallmark of so many of these pieces. Still on the subject of ebooks and their potential, critic Carol Strickland wants us to understand the role ebooks might play in the art-book world:
When text and image are interwoven, the electronic medium can also be a means of creative expression. It merges form and content to teach and entertain readers, turning them into engaged participants. The electronic format is a new carrier, tailored to our age of fast transmission of ideas and images. An enhanced ebook does things a printed page can’t do. Readers scroll and swipe through timelines, zoom in on blow-ups, and touch and click for background info and analyses of technique.
Maybe not surprisingly, there have been a number of manifestos having to do with authors’ issues. Surely the most articulate among us, our writers make natural manifesto-masters, and the first we published was from independent author Diana Kimpton, on the subject of author-publisher relations—one of the key topics we’ll be discussing on 30th November at the pre-FutureBook Author Day event at Euston Square:
Accept that we are intelligent, self-employed business people. We do not need nurturing – we need information. As a self-publisher, I get daily sales figures. As a traditionally published author, I get royalty statements every 6 months that are already 3 months out of date. That really isn’t good enough in this digital age.
Ontario’s Carla Douglas—who is traveling to London to attend both Author Day and FutureBook 2015—speaks, by contrast, directly to writers, and quite adamantly to all writers:
The word ‘author’ is passive. Certainly becoming an author is an achievement, but an achievement that happened in the past. You authored a book, yes, but are you writing now? The word ‘writer’, on the other hand, is a doing word. It’s more optimistic, active and energetic. So embrace the active noun: be a writer. Focus on the writing, publish however you like, but publish well.
Publisher and technologist Emma Barnes of Bibliocloud and Snowbooks, a regular contributor here at The FutureBook, uses her manifesto to amplify her all for better roles, compensation, training, and positioning for junior employees in publishing today:
Make us competent, make us proud, make us flourish. I want to work in a flourishing industry known for its competence, kindness, innovation and creativity. As time goes on, our current expectations of what junior roles should be is going to look and feel more and more Stone Age—with radical implications for our future viability.
Consultant Alison Jones, who will be with us at FutureBook 2015 as one of my fellow panel chairs, takes the time to step back and work out a definition of a publisher’s purpose and then finds no conflict there with commercial goals:
The publisher clarifies the cause, works with the creator to make the best possible content, decides on the best carriers and the right commercial models to reach the right consumer. The creativity is not just in the creation of the content, it’s in the organizing of the elements to create the most effective outcome – the commercial IS the creative.
From San Francisco, we get Aerbook founder Ron Martinez’s bid for the democratising “power of the distributed marketplace”:
This centralising effect in technology-driven markets is now being upended by the power of mobile devices in billions of pockets, and vast social and interest networks. These changes have given rise to a more powerful market model: the distributed marketplace, and you’re seeing it everywhere, from Etsy shops, to Shopify indie eCommerce, even to services like Uber and others. So yes, it’s time for this same powerful. marketplace model to come to the book industry, for the benefit of everyone in our community, not just the lucky few.
There’s more: Read on
By Porter Anderson Follow @Porter_Anderson
The Bookseller: ‘Magnificent manifestos’ on the way to FutureBook 2015
Read the full post at: TheBookseller.com/FutureBook
AND don’t forget to register for Author Day, 30th November in London at 30 Euston Square
And info on our superb sister conference. The FutureBook 2015