I had the privilege of spending the weekend in Toronto to attend an all-day writers’ symposium on the future of publishing in a digital world, and what that
means to writers.
Hosted by the Writers’ Union of Canada, the day included presentations by WUC Executive Director Kelly Duffin, and Canadian authors, Betsy Warland, and Ross Laird. Toronto was the starting point for a cross-Canada tour by these engaging literary professionals. We spent the day at the Textile Museum of Canada, on Centre Avenue in downtown TO, listening, sharing, learning, and connecting. Truly one of the most worthwhile experiences since starting my trek into publishing.
The day was completely packed with details. Within ten minutes, I realized I had hit upon a goldmine of information relevant to every writer in the room. But more so for myself. By the first coffee break, I was convinced they had developed this presentation just for me.
Betsy described the current publishing environment, how things were done traditionally, and how – and how fast! – every detail is changing simply because of the Internet access available to the world. It was distressing to hear. And certainly frightening for the established or emerging writer who is depending on that tradition. I could feel the weight of a growing despair in the room as she reported her facts. It was both enlightening and distressing.
But I felt like the fox in the hen house. The more she told us, the more excited I got. It was difficult to control my smile.
Everything Betsy touched on, though leaning toward doom and gloom for tradition, shone a light on the future for Romantic Shorts. By the time she finished, I realized that we are indeed a leader in online publishing!
Ross then presented the future of publishing: self-promoting, self-publication, online marketing, POD (print on demand). Honestly, while I realize there were others in the room who were truly terrified of where this was leading – we’ve all seen it: the people at work who dig their heels in when pushed into learning some new computer skills – I couldn’t share in their panic.
I was exhilarated!
Without a doubt, the future of publishing is online. I agree with Ross; I think in ten years the paper novel, newspaper, and magazine will be obsolete, save for a few collectors’ copies. We will be doing virtually all of our reading online, with e-readers, on our phones, and who knows what new and ingenious ideas they’ll come up with by then. It’s happening. And it’s happening faster and faster every day. (The proof is in our youngest generation, who have never seen a phone book, used a dictionary, or mailed a letter!)
And I don’t think this is a bad thing. Once upon a time, our ancestors told their stories with drawings on rocks. Then everything changed with the discovery of paper – and even more with the printing press. This is simply another step in our intellectual evolution. The change that is happening now is every bit as threatening, confusing, and exciting. But infinitely more powerful! Whereas the last great shift in information availability most benefited the educated and the educable, this greater shift to infinite availability will change the world as we know it. And no one will be more affected than the people who provide the content for the world to read.
We are on the path to amazing things. If you believe in 2012 as I do, you see this not as the end of the world, but as the beginning of a world we can’t begin to imagine. Change won’t be easy. But I consider myself one of the luckiest people in history to be able to be here to witness it.
And with sheer and utter luck, I get to be a part of it.