A couple two, three days ago, Cory Doctorow linked to a manifesto by Lewis Shiner. Shiner is beginning the process of posting his shorts online.
I have the geeky capacity to speed read. A book generally takes me a day or two to read. If I kept buying books at the rate I can read, I'd be homeless. Well read, but homeless. So I love shorts. I get to know the author, and decide whether or not I want to drop dracmas on longer works. That's how I got into Doctorow. I downloaded his work, read it on screen (shorter shorts) or printed it out, double sided, eight point font (thick glasses) for more leisurely reading. Scalzi, same thing.
I've never been able to do novel length works onscreen, however. Tried putting them on the old iPod Photo no good. I think the Sony ereader is ridiculously overpriced. I have high hopes for the iPhone 2.0 (along with video capabilities, more storage etc). So when I come across a hard back of an author I like, I'll by it. I read Eastern Standard Tribe that way.
We deal with a twenty four second news-cycle and short attention span theatres. Here's my hoping that the market for shorts bouncing back. Here's me thinking it will:
Velocity: my life moves fast, and I've got a lot competing for my attention. Reading a book is a commitment, on my part. But there's plenty of time for hippocket reading. Something I can pull out and read in the nooks available. Like what the Pamphlet Guys offer. The return of serials would be nice.
Cost: I can't buy ten hardcovers a month. That's about two hundred dracma plus I could be spending on something else. Sorry. Just the way it is.
Delivery: there's the nub. I need something I can put in my pocket, and go. I lose it, lend it, rend it, the no harm no foul. If you could do it electronically on a suitably eye ball friendly medium with decent micropayments, then I'm yours.
Another thing, I could see doing either a netflix like lending "library" (with books printed on something tougher than your average paper) or use those car sized bookbinding machines, staffed by friendly baristas to print on demand.
Hard copy reading is not going away. Not as long a trogs like myself are around.
But yeah, the market's got to move forward.
UPDATE: Great minds think alike (mines just tags along and throws popcorn).
Over at Dan Simmons site, some thoughts by Richard Curtis on the future of publishing:
But this is the 21st, and publishing is becoming virtual. How about this alternative: amazon prints all five thousand copies at its BookSurge plant in Charleston, South Carolina. Booksurge then ships the books directly to the customers who pre-ordered them months ago.
He talks about zooba.com and booksurge. Zooba's your netflix model. Hell, I may join it myself. Paying 10 dracma for a hardcover is a steal. Booksurge, on the other hand, offers a sort of print on demand, for short run publishing. Amazon just bought them out. There's plenty of print on demand companies out there, LuLu and iUniverse just to name two. These techniques are aimed at producers.
Here's where the publishing industry has an opportunity to fuse trends. Now, I'm a net fanatic, but not an absolutist. There's plenty that editors and publishers add to the creative process. Polish for one thing. Experience. Imprimature in other words.
Now go read Kevin Kiley's post on Cool Tools:
This high tech machine is finding a home in clean rooms of printing plants; you feed it digital files; it looks like a long copy machine. For print runs of less than 1,500 copies, this process will be cheaper per book; beyond that it's cheaper to print with ink. The advantage of this short-run zone is that there is little penalty for printing only a few books; the cost per copy remains the same, unlike in most print jobs. Technically, since you aren't producing each book as you need it (that's true books on demand) but in very small lots, this type of printing is called Print Quantity Needed (PQN).
You see where I'm going here?
Here's your bookstore of the future:
Look ma, no books!!
This is your front end. Your back end has some sort of print on demand machine. You've got a deal with Amazon, you're linked into Gutenberg. Now, when I stroll in, and what Doctorow: The Anthology, you print it up. Or if I want those damn hard to find D.K. Moran books, you print them up. Publisher's collect royalties on all books sold. Books don't go out of print, in my magic bookstore.
Of course, you got to give people something tactile, something to browse. Those overpriced sony readers are one option. But if you really want to get sexy, you're going to help Microsoft monetize surface computing.
I'm talking Books-A-Trillion, here. Best part, you don't need some megalot to open your bookstore. It's the perfect nook and crannie store. Hell, maybe you don't even bother with store, but franchise the technology to already existing small bookstores. That's up to you.
Now go forth, capitalize and make a fortune.
Send me a post card and tell me how it went.