Writers in a Digital Age – a response

At the recent Fernie Writers’ Conference, an attempt was made to discuss the topic Writers in a Digital Age and whether eBooks will change the way we write and promote ourselves as writers. I say “attempt” because it quickly devolved into the usual arguments for choosing print over e-publishing with very little said as to the effect eBooks will have on us as writers.

And the fear-mongering about eBooks continues.

This same subject was “discussed” at the WGA conference held in Calgary in 2009. Many writers stood at the mic then to complain and worry about how this new move forward into e-publishing would affect their own publications and writing. I remember mine being the lone voice in the room to embrace the opportunity this new Digital Age would bring by providing new markets for our writing and that really those participants in the publishing equation who would most likely suffer would be the agents, sales reps and the booksellers. We will still require writers to produce the content, we will still require publishers (or “curation” as Ruth has referred to the much-needed process) to produce and format the content, and they will both always require readers to read the content.

Without the readers that content is nothing at all. We cannot exist without the readers.

I wanted to pose this question at the panel discussion in Fernie but we ran out of time: Is it not up to our readers to decide in which format they wish to read our content?

It’s the writer’s job to write. The reader will read what we write in whatever format is most suitable to them. Neither writer nor publisher may dictate one format over another simply because they have this sentimental notion of the superiority of the tactility and smell of print. Isn’t the main reason we write to be read? By someone? Anyone? Let’s face it – we all know the publishing business well enough to realize that very few people in that room listening to the panel discussion will ever become wealthy from either their writing or the publishing of that writing. So we write to be read, plain and simple. Should we not be more concerned about writing the best (and most correct – ie. curated, edited and designed) content that we can and then with finding new readers? (That’s the use of social media aspect of the topic that was only lightly touched upon during the discussion.)

And if readers demand that what we write be available to them in multiple formats, including eBooks, then I say we embrace the digital age and give them what they want.

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4 responses

  1. Um – making ‘salad’ is the missing word in the comment above….

  2. To say that ebook sales will cannibalize the sale of either hardcovers, trade or mass market paperbacks is a lot like saying ‘now tomatoes are available in tins or sun dried, no one will ever buy a fresh tomato again,’ isn’t it? Um, not quite. We’ll buy some of our tomatoes fresh when they’re in season and we’re making; we’ll probably used tinned tomatoes for in soups and stews, and we’ll use the sun-dried tomatoes on pizzas and – ok – running out of steam a bit here as I actually loathe sun-dried tomatoes and avoid them whenever possible. But I think I made my point, no?

  3. Janet MacMillan

    Excellent blog post, Susan. I just can’t work out why authors, publishers, editors, whoevers, are getting their knickers in such a twist about ebooks. For heaven’s sake, as long as folks are reading who cares whether they read a paper book, an ebook, or Moses’ engraved tablets! I was very interested to note the other day that so far this year I’ve read more books than by this time last year, and I am certain that part of the reason is that I’ve been reading some books on my ereader, which is far easier to cart around in my bag, backpack, or whatever, so I’m more likely to read a few pages while I wait somewhere or in a cafe, instead of the newspaper.

  4. bettyjanehegerat

    Well said, Susan. It should be obvious that the reader, the audience, is a player in this game, but we do indeed forget about the importance (asnd the power) of our readers when we resist change.

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