As Publishing Evolves, So Are the ReadersBy Mercy Pilkington
By now, news of George R.R. Martin’s onstage rant at ComiCon has spread, as well as Neil Gaiman’s defense of the author’s guitar-smashing antics. Whether a genuine display of anger over the band Paul & Storm’s parody song “Write Like the Wind,” which pokes fun at the long wait between books in Martin’s Game of Thrones series, or just a fun contribution to the event staged to amuse the crowd, there’s an underlying message that demonstrates the way readers are changing.
At this year’s BookExpo America event, Good e-Reader staffers sat on a roundtable with executives from Amazon’s Kindle and KDP division along with authors CJ Lyons, Hugh Howey, and Stephanie Bond. Lyons made the very poignant remark in reference to the two-year wait time between author Dan Brown’s books: “If my fans had to wait two years for the next book in the series, they’d throw a brick through my window!” Howey echoed that sentiment that he first shared at this year’s Digital Book World conference, in which he said he’d had fans email him to say that they had bought his book sometime during the night and by five the next morning were inquiring when the next title would be available.
As digital-first publishing has stripped away a lot of the snail’s pace of book distribution, readers are now responding in kind. Just as authors were frustrated by sometimes waiting almost two years from the date of contract signing to the date of publication, readers have grown to expect the speed of instant downloads and almost monthly content from their favorite writers, even in the form of a stand-along digital novella to fill in the gaps while waiting for the next full-length title.
As for poor Martin, whose crawling pace was put on display from the San Diego stage, there are so many uncontrollable factors in traditional publishing that might affect the speed of publication. JK Rowling once gave an interview in which she stated that the seventh and final Harry Potter title was finished and “sitting in a vault at the bank,” meaning in actuality, “don’t come ransack my home looking for it,” one the eve of the publication of book six. As for Thrones, the success of the highly-acclaimed HBO series may have the strongest impact on the publication schedule; who’s going to continue watching the very expensive series if the final book comes out, revealing it all to have been a bored child’s daydream? We’ll all have to remind ourselves that some things are worth the wait, lest George R.R. Martin come to your house and smash your belongings.
Mercy Pilkington is a young-adult author and a teacher in a correctional facility. She does not have a single textbook in her classroom. With the top-of-the-line technology at her disposal and the low reading ability of many of her students, there’s no need for standard paper texts. Instead she relies on e-readers, iPads, desktop PCs, Polycom video conferencing equipment for virtual field trips, live streaming for science demonstrations, and text-to-speech read-aloud software to teach English and science. Within the next ten years, public school classrooms across the country are going to look a lot more like Mercy’s classroom because the educational possibilities with these kinds of technologies are limitless. Have a question? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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