The future is (maybe) now
Yesterday, after a 15K race, a hair cut (apparently my cut hair weighs 0.6 pounds, thank you very much) and an unfulfilled trip to Best Buy’s Geek Squad (Apple is looking better and better), I was lazing about on the couch, catching up on old episodes of Gossip Girl and 24 (yes — I watch both shows, which I realize is only slightly less bizarre than admitting I was riveted by both the series finale of Battlestar Galactica and the world premiere of Nora Robert’s Northern Lights). I was, at the same time, attempting to sort through the stories in my RSS reader (which numbered 11,000+ a couple days ago. Apparently it might not be such a good idea to try to follow more than 300 blogs when you’re holding a full-time job that does not consist of following blogs.)
Over the past month, Teleread, my favorite ebook blog, has posted numerous pieces about the new Kindle, Amazon’s iPhone Kindle application, the Sony / Google partnership and more. It hit me, as I read one of their stories about digital newspapers, that this is something we fantasized about years ago. When Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban opened in 2004, we oohed and ahed over The Daily Prophet, delivered to magicians (in real time and with “flash,” i.e., animation, to boot) on a piece of parchment. Experts predicted we’d have that soon too — news delivered daily on a tablet screen. Welcome to the Kindle. Or the New York Times application for the iPhone. How fast time flies.
Speaking of flying, for those of you new to the Twitter scene, some fellow by the name of James Bridle is at least a year ahead of you: he’s published My Life in Tweets. Then there’s the Twitter story begun a week ago, featuring dragons (as best I can tell).
We’re at a crossroads in book publishing — ereaders are gaining popularity, yet digital publishing is bogged down by pricing, format and DRM (Digital Rights Management) issues. On the publicity end, reviewers are beginning to ask for electronic review copies and publishing houses are starting to work with companies like NetGalley, yet the process of getting ebooks to reviewers remains cumbersome and plagued with fears that electronic material can easily be pirated. (Providing reviewers with ebooks does not simply save time, money and space — ebooks can also facilitate the review process since they are searchable.) Faced with both improved and increasingly accepted technology on the one hand, as well as thorny distribution issues on the other, now is the time for authors, publishing houses and journalists to collaborate — to share ideas and suggestions so we all can continue to promote reading and literature.