Publishing Thoughts

And like that my first semester of Masters is over.

It’s been a quick 13 weeks, but I’ve learned so much already. Book formats, design terminology, and marketing techniques have all been part of it, but the number one thing I’ve gathered is that the future of publishing is very fluid right now, and very, very exploitable. Far from the coming apocalypse that most people believe is inevitable, the future of book publishing is actually quite hopeful. All it means is that the methods of the past will have to change. Being part of a fresh cohort—nubile minds absorbing mistakes and possibilities—is actually a massive boon. Heck, I’m not even sure if  I want to stick to editing, as there are so many career avenues on offer.

Personally though, there is one component of books going into the future that has the most potential. Digital books are here to stay, but what makes them stand out? The interactivity? Price points? No, I think that the promise of the online book is in sociability. Books have always promoted conversation, and now it’s easier than ever. I’m talking about things that go beyond Amazon reviews, or even Goodreads. Highlights in your Kindle eBook are all well and good, but I want to know who highlighted it, why they highlighted it, and where they are from. Projects like Read Social are actively trying to engage with this mentality, and I definitely think it’s the way forward. Mixing something like Steam (a platform for selling video games that incorporates community) with books and all they offer seems like a feeding ground.

On that note of mixing games and books, I had a brain spasm the other day. There is a part in my novella where I thought it would be neat to include a bit of interaction, let the reader mix and match paragraphs. Then I thought: why not make it a game? Readers have to get the paragraphs in the correct order so that they can progress to the next page. Make reading fun again!

Then I slapped myself.

No, no, no, that’s not how you do it. Interactivity in text should be, as discussed, through social and additive measures. The key element of a book is the words. How they form is integral to the enjoyment of a good book, and anything that acts as a barrier is ridiculous. Reading is what you do with a book, and the flow comes though various techniques. Thankfully the idea of gamifying literature hasn’t caught on.

And then I flipped the thought.

What about videogames? Where does the flow come from? From playing, obviously. The joy comes from hitting all the right gamic notes, learning through doing (rather than learning from reading). Both games and books have moments to take stock—when the prose is suitably beautiful, we pause and reflect on it; similarly we voluntarily stop  in games when the action climaxes. Why then is standard practice to insert non-game sections to break flow, an authorial hand halting us in our tracks? Why do games bombard us with text and movies and sound that tell us what to do or what the story is, rather than merge it organically with the very act of play? Why is that games have managed to do this in the past, yet it hasn’t become standard? I fear it is because games needed these other media to assert themselves, and now we are left with horrible bastardisations.

Well, that was quite a leap. Just some thoughts I’ve had floating around in my head—maybe they will promote more in yours.

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