Thursday, February 17, 2011

Paying Homage – The Digital Transition of the Literary Word

I hear a lot of debate about the transition to digital medium in the book world.  Of course, we all do.
More recently I’ve been hearing a lot about piracy and illegal downloading of e-books and what that means to writers as well as readers everywhere.  In all the talk about how terrible this is, and in fact it is stealing, so yes, it hurts us all, I see one subject has gone unrecognized.
This transition is hard, be we have the fortunate position to not be the first artistic medium affected by the digital change.  If you recall back to the dark ages when computers were monstrous machines that didn’t fit in your back pocket, but agggg, sat on your desk with a hard-drive somewhere hidden underneath, out of sight, then you might remember when the terms illegal downloading and piracy were all over the MTV news.  (Oh the days, I’m having my own private flashbacks now.)
Of course I was but a wee child at the time, but I remember one group in particular, Metallica something-or-other, who launched a campaign to end the piracy of music downloads.  They fought hard, they didn’t give up, and one could say they helped change the world of digital medium forever.
I think that as we all prepare to make another leap in the direction that music took those many years ago, we need to bear this in mind.  It has been done before.  Others have helped pave the way.  We are not going it alone into uncharted territory.  This is an advantage.
It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and uncertainty that can come along with change.  It’s easy to feel history is being left behind and a certain sadness about a part of our lives changing forever.  But the truth is, we will survive.  Writers, authors, publishers, agents, and books will survive.  They may not look the same, function the same or even sound the same, but they will come out the other side of the wheels of time and will be enjoyed by all, not less, but probably more.
I know it’s hard to believe, isn’t it.
There used to be ‘records’.  People loved their records and their record players.  People still have vast collections of these little black discs that are now antiques to be cherished.  Then there were tapes and CD’s.  Yes, I remember both of those.  Now there are digital downloads and iTunes!  Whoa, no way.   Music has come a long way, and that’s only a fraction of its history.  Yet today music still exists, music artists, music producers, agents and record labels all still exist. 
So, as we, the collaborative book, writing, word industry, prepares to make a journey through this same transition process, let’s remember to take a little time and reflect on those who have gone before.  A lot of the rough water we are entering has been swum before.  We are fortunate for that.  It may not mean smooth sailing, but at least we have a compass.  There are laws, guidelines, companies and systems in place that can help us get through the changes ahead.  Which we will do.
No matter what our new roles may be, no matter how our product appearance may change, books will survive.  Books will flourish.  Books have been around since man could carve into thick stone tablets.  Books are our collective history, and they are our glimpse into the future.  You don’t really think we’ll give up on them now, do you?  I don’t.
So while the publishing industry figures out this whole process anew, I’ll do my job.  I’ll write.  I trust them to do their jobs.  Then, when it’s my turn to transition from a writer to an author, I’ll still need them doing their jobs so that I can continue doing mine.  Together we’ll make it through.  The future is in the books, no matter what form they’re in.

Thank you to all who have paved our way and to all who are blazing new trails right now.


alexia said...

I agree, I like to stay positive and not worry about the publishing industry. I don't think paper books or real book stores are going away anytime soon. E-books are a nice compliment to the market.

Julie Geistfeld said...

Hi Alexia,
Thanks for stopping by the blog and for commenting! Always great to hear from you.

Luke Raftl said...

Nice article, Julie!

I have thought along these lines before. The music industry and musicians have been through this and adapted to survive and thrive in the new digital world, and writers and publishers will too. I believe books have even more sentimental value than a vinyl record, and e-books will come to live beside them but not supercede them as mp3s have done here.

One thing I like here is when you say that while everything is being sorted out around us, we just have to do our job and write. We can do nothing more!

Nice blog :)

Julie Geistfeld said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Luke.
It's always great to hear what other writers are thinking.
Best of writing to you.