Cousin Gail called just before noon. She wondered if I could do her a “teeny’’ favor. Remember how Caroline Cousins had a speaking engagement tonight? And since only two-thirds of us – herself and Cousin Meg – were actually going to be there in S.C. , would I, as the missing cousin, just shoot her a quick e-mail about how publishing has changed in the decade since our first book came out.
“And maybe put in something about the future and how it’s changing, too,’’ Gail said. “If you have the time, that is. Please.’’
Caroline Cousins, being a Southerner, is always polite, especially when asking for the moon.
Shoot, Gail, if I had the time and knowledge to write about everything changing in publishing, we might could publish it as a book – an e-book, that is. Furthermore, you and Meg wouldn’t be able to do our usual
dog-and-pony show that we all three know by heart so any one, two or three of us, in any combination, can rattle on about our books and writing experience at a moment’s notice. You’d be talking from now until Sunday, and the audience’s eyes would have glazed over yesterday.
So let me be brief. Or briefish. The Internet has changed every aspect of publishing, and continues to do so. Even if some authors continue to write longhand (Meg, for example), eventually their words gets put in a computer and technology takes over from there, for better or worse.
Generally, I think better. Or maybe I just hope that because I love books – the real ones — just holding them, smelling them, listening to the sound of pages turning. Crisp new books high on ink. Musty old ones with paper like crumbling graham crackers. Books printed in DTF – dead tree format.
But now I have not only stacks upon stacks of books like this, I also have a virtual library of books. They’re digital electronic editions – e-books – and you read them on computers – laptops, tablets, smartphones and dedicated e-readers, such as a nook (mine) or a Kindle (Meg). (There are differences, so do your research).
At last count, I had 140 books on my nook, which weighs approximately 11 oz. There’s room for at least a thousand, more if I add back-up storage.
And then there’s “the cloud,’’ where my e-books are archived in something like an Internet storage unit, and another cloud, where I check out e-books from my public library.
I’m not enough of a techno-nerd to understand cloud computing. But the future of publishing is up there in the clouds somewhere as writers, publishers, booksellers, and readers all struggle to adapt to this new “platform,’’ where the wind blows every whichaway.
I don’t think books – the real ones – are going away soon, or for good. But e-books, in some form, are here to stay. They present challenges and opportunities in marketing, distribution and pricing. Piracy, too. Caroline Cousins may be translated into Chinese for all we know.
What we do know is that we are happy that our books are available as e-books from Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and as Google-e-books, which allows independent bookstores to get a piece of the digital pie.
Caroline Cousins loves books. And pie.