There's an artistic revolution coming.
A whole new form of something -what we're now calling an enhanced ebook -is on the horizon.
I have no idea what it will look like. It will be more than a book because it will be more than text. It will be more than a movie because it will be more than pictures and text.
It will be more than a compilation of things that presently exist. It will be something entirely new.
It will be interactive. It will be visual. It will be electronic. It won't be tactile. Other than that, I have no idea what it will be.
But it's coming.
And I guarantee you the place we'll see it first will be small presses: self publishers, small publishers, entrepreneurs.
Here's the main reason: there's no R&D Division at any publisher I know. Not even the small ones. Publishers depend on someone to bring them content. They can add value (and do!) They can re-purpose and repackage (and they do.) What they can't do is invent.
And this form needs to be invented. And when it is, it's going to fail. A lot. And by fail, I mean not sell. Certainly not sell in any kind of volume that would earn out or turn a profit if the publisher runs a P&L.
So, even if they see this New Thing, they'll say no. And if by some miracle they say yes, they'll start saying No as soon as the first quarter numbers come in and the stock prices drop.
For editors and staff at a large publisher, the consequences for a failure, and repeated failure are pretty big. Lower profits, getting fired. When you answer to the balance sheet and stockholders, it's hard to say "this is cool, but we need a couple years to make it work." Particularly if it's something no one has ever seen before. And no one seems to want. Or need.
And if you point out that software companies did exactly this, let me point out in return that most of those companies were brand new, the stockholders worked there, and the money came from venture capitalists. None of those describe publishing. We're one of the world's OLDEST industries, not the newest.
But here's what I think is going to happen.
Some guy in his basement or attic, or tree house lair is going to come up with Whatever This New Thing is Going to Be. And he's going to publish it himself. For free. To whoever will read/use/ogle it. Then someone else will see it and say, this is very cool, and do it too.
This is where the software revolution will be the metaphor: kids writing code in their basements that turned into Myspace; FaceBook; whatever.
And big corporate publishers won't be able to come in and "buy up rights" because who knows what rights they're buying? And how on earth will it be sold? All of general trade publishing right now is based on the model of licensing rights and paying licensors on a royalty basis.
This new art form isn't going to work that way, and corporate publishing simply won't be able to figure out how to deal with it very quickly (they will though, just not quickly)
The first guys who are going to make this new art form available other than one to one will be the guys like Ben Leroy at Tyrus Books and Johnny Temple at Akashic Books. Guys who can move quickly cause they own the company. They're nimble. And they can be creative about how to pay people (I don't mean this as code for NOT paying.)
I have no idea what I'm talking about here. No one else does either. It's like a black hole in space. No one can see it, but you can tell it's there cause of how objects around it shift and change.
I can feel shifting in the universe here; change is coming.
In a year, maybe two, I'll read this post and laugh at how much I didn't know. But I'm really really excited to see what's coming.
And I'm really glad there are places like Tyrus Books and Akashic Books to give me great hope that brilliant creativity will flourish.
And that's another reason I love BEA: it's a chance to see the guys running these small presses and talk with them about what they're doing; what they're excited about. Even guys who are going to save the world need to chat about books once in a while!