Sunday, June 22, 2014

Changes in Publishing


FROM WRITING TO DESIGN

Last Monday I sent the final draft of “Westfall, Slave To King Cotton” to Stanard Design Partners, which will create a cover and lay-out design. The manuscript I sent was an electronic file. The editing and proofing were done without benefit of paper. Further, the book itself will at some point be an electronic file. That the entire process was completed without the necessity of one sheet of paper makes you wonder what’s happening to the paper industry.

Paperback vs e-book

That’s not to say the book won’t be printed as a paperback. I like the heft and texture of a paper book. I like the physicality of dog-earing pages, writing notes in margins with pencils, highlighting with magic marker. Paper I can feel with my fingers allows an intimacy I miss with e-books. “Westfall” will emerge as a paperback.

When you think about the past and how books were once produced and the dramatic changes that have occurred, you have to wonder what the future holds. From an article in the magazine Fast Company*, comes this sentence: “The world of information has surpassed human cognitive powers.” In other words, we don’t have to worry too much if we don’t understand technology, for even the most brilliant brain in the universe can’t comprehend our world of information.

If we had lived as a monk in the middle ages copying pages to reproduce books, we would have been awe-struck to know that Gutenberg would create a process that would reproduce in a week more books than a monastery could in years.

Books as Commodities as Electronic

Books emerged from cloisters to ostentatious display in book shops. From being precious and unique they became readily attainable. Improvements in the printing process have made books a commodity, and disposable at that. Now that books have gone electronic, they’re not even recycled. They’re attained and disposed of as blips of energy.

Generations in the future may look at our e-books like we look at handwritten copies made by monks. What form will books take in the future? Will we insert a microchip in our brain? Will we read without the use of our eyes?

In the meantime, Davis and Cindy of Stanard Design Partners (http://www.stanarddesign.com) will convert the electronic file I sent them into another e-file that an electronic publisher will convert into a book. I hope “Westfall, Slave To King Cotton” will be available before the end of the summer.

* “Man and His Machines,” Om Mallk, Fast Company, July/August 2014

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