The history of publishing has been an interesting one, and something I’ve been keen to follow for years.
When I was younger, published authors were a rare breed. They had to be creative enough to pull together a coherent manuscript and savvy enough to sell said manuscript to a publisher.
I wrote short stories as a kid and dreamed of one day publishing my fiction. I remember long days at the bookstore pouring through Writer’s Market in the hope of finding a company to make my dream a reality.
I attended author talks looking for inspiration, and was often surprised with how difficult it seemed to actually publish a book. The difficulty involved with actually publishing was astounding, and made the entire process feel very daunting.
The Digital Era
After I gave up on publishing a book, I tried to digitally publish some of my work instead. My first blog was a self-hosted HTML site built using MS FrontPage and updated manually by hacking the code and uploading it to the server over FTP.
Remember, this was in the early days of digital publishing.
Since then, we’ve seen a surge in the number of online content management systems that allow anyone to publish just about anything online. Technical skills are no longer required, so the long queue of writers waiting for publishers to select their works have turned to either online or self-publishing.
Newspapers have begun consolidating as media consumption moves to online. Traditional bookstores have begun shuttering as readers turn to digital publications rather than weighty printed tomes.
It’s been an interesting industry shift to watch. It’s been even more interesting – as a technologist and writer to be involved.
It’s Not Over
The shift in both publication and consumption media is far from over, though.
Traditional publishers are just starting to catch up with the digital trends, making things like vanity publishing (once a hipster mainstay) more acceptable and mainstream. Companies like Amazon are making it easier for digital goods to make it to market, and writers focusing on high-volume ebook generation are just as (in some cases more) successful as the old-school, advance-seeking pulp writers.
I look daily at the dichotomy between “traditional print media” its the now-mainstream digital equivalent. I ask myself every day what the media of the future could look like and if publishing 10 years from now will be as different from publishing today as today’s form is from the last decade’s.
What do you think is coming next?