Traditionally, authors have made a commitment to engage with a subject matter on behalf of future readers, with whom they would have no particular contact. In the new paradigm, I think, an author's commitment will be to engage with readers in the context of a subject matter.
Essentially, authors are about to learn what musicians have grasped during the past 10 years - that they get paid to show up. For musicians, this means live performances account for an increasingly significant percentage of their income in contrast to ever-shrinking royalties from sales. With books, as we redefine content to include the conversation that grows up around the text, the author will increasingly be expected to be part of that ongoing conversation and, of course, expect to be paid for that effort.
For their part, readers will see the experience of reading expand to include a range of behaviours, all situated firmly within a social context. To illustrate, here's a mother in London describing her 10-year-old boy's reading behaviour: "He'll be reading a (printed) book. He'll put the book down and go to the book's website. Then he'll check what other readers are writing in the forums, and maybe leave a message himself, then return to the book. He'll put the book down again and Google a query that's occurred to him."
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Bob Stein on the Future of Reading
In advance of the Melbourne Writers festival later this month where he is scheduled to speak, Bob Stein offers a perspective on the future of authorship and reading in The Age: