Book Wars Part 1: The Rise of Everyone

You've seen a lot on the changes in publishing occurring in this blog, every few days, if not more often, there's talk about e-readers, e-books, Print on Demand, etc.  I could sum this up in many ways (including "oh, gods make it stop, it's confusing), but to put it simply:

  • There are more ways to get text to people.
  • Everyone wants a piece of that market.
  • This means new ways to deliver content and consume it.

Now, this basically means people can read more and authors can get their stuff out easier.  I have several books in the works and am pretty sure most if not all will start as Print On Demand with e-book options.  I see no reason not to embrace the new technology.

There's another side to this that often gets missed.  Yes, more ways to get more books in more formats.  We can guess that, we've heard about it, we know it's a given.

The things that intrigue me are a few other factors often missed in the Book Wars:

  • There are more delivery methods.  You can get books on wireless tools.
  • There are more ways all the time to look for the content you need.
  • It's pretty easy to get your content out there (you could publish a book through Lulu in an evening of hard work).

What does this remind me of?  Music and movies.

The barrier to entry for the production of music has changed.  As I quote (too often) I recall years ago reading about how independent artists could make a studio for a few thousand dollars.  There are ways to burn CDs, distribute MP3s, etc.  Even a small audience can be reached and be profitable to service.

Movies and video have changed a lot over the last few decades.  Yes there's multimillion dollar blockbusters where two robot lawyers fall in love during an alien invasion and have a tearful reunion (and probably Seth Rogen is in it).  But there's more and more small films more easily made and distributed, ranging from clever indies (Primer), to stuff that's pretty much lousy but fun.  A lot of the direct-to-video B-movies today would be impossibilities in the past, but they can find an audience, as can small independent films.

Music that required a small army of people to make can be made and distributed by one person leveraging technology and outsourcing.

Movies that would have required extensive special effects can be made with home computers and short outlays.

The internet can let you market and distribute both, even outsourcing your DVD burning.

Books, magazines, etc. have just entered this phase of easy-to-make, easy-to-get out.  You can make a book yourself, outsource the editing through craigslist, get your cousin to make the cover, publish through, and run a website with the help of the lead batter of your little league team.  In short, between an unknown editor, a relative, and that 16-year old computer genius with the killer swing, you can make and market a book.

Anyone can be an author, and because text is an easy medium to create and transmit (low bandwidth, doesn't need extensive special effects, etc.), is culturally established (people are used to reading), it's easy to miss what a revolution is going on.

Text.  Anywhere.  Any time.  Easy to find what you want.  Multiple formats.

We're all potential authors now.

– Steven Savage