As a writer, I found the Tools of Change Conference fascinating, if a bit disorienting. With all the talk of e-book formats, digital rights, and enhanced content, I had this heady feeling of getting a glimpse of what’s behind the curtain—and not being quite sure if I really wanted to see. I was struck by the contrast between the amiable chatter typical of conference crowds and what seemed to me muted responses to the speakers (particularly unnerving as I was one of them!) with few questions for the presenters. I felt a bit like a student who had walked into a class where everyone else was already confused.
With such volatility in the industry, confusion makes total sense. Question marks hover over the way books will be produced, sold, read, and even written. That’s big stuff. But behind the confusion I felt something else, the kind of ambient fear that accompanies the push-and-pull of change. A friend said the mood reminded her of the CD Rom era, when it became increasingly clear that this seemingly game-changing new medium wasn’t the future but no one knew what would replace it.
What will these changes mean for writers? I don’t know – but I do believe it’s better to engage in conversations about the future of the book than to wish change away. In her keynote speech Arianna Huffington said this was not the end of publishing, but rather the beginning of an age of engagement—and noted the folly of wishing ourselves back to a “golden time” for publishing because such a time didn’t exist; rather, reading habits and literature have always been evolving. So with open eyes and an open spirit I’ll continue to write, knowing that my words may be read in transit on a small screen rather than in a comfortable chair beneath the warm glow of a reading lamp.
Regarding the nuts and bolts (indulge me the cliché; we are talking “tools” here) I will defer to what participants are saying about the conference. There’s a wealth of information, so I encourage anyone interested in how publishing is changing to dive in. I particularly liked this piece by Kassia Krozser of the industry blog Booksquare and this quick-fire response from Mark Coker of the ebook publisher Smashwords.The brief presentation I gave was in a strict format: 20 slides, 15 seconds a slide. Here is one image that didn’t make the cut. Tony and I had stopped by Vermont Confectionery when we were out looking for cows to photograph. Pictures of cows? Don’t ask…
Short Story Writers Sarah Hall & Jennifer Haigh
3 months ago