Saturday, 4 January 2014

3 steps to publishing revolution - by Cally Phillips

Step One.  The tablet comes full circle.

Warning. Stylistically this post is bound together only by digressions.  Maybe even digression ad absurdum.  It’s more knockabout than reasoned debate.  Just a few thoughts and points dragged together by my synapses for your entertainment.

Look closely, this one's for you Lee! 
I’m guessing that many readers (do I have many readers here?) will either have got or bought some form of tablet this festive period.  And I don’t mean the Scottish kind that is a sickly sweet but addictive confection!

I thought it worthy of reflection – being as how Janus was the God of looking backwards and forwards- and so for my first part of ‘3 steps to publishing revolution’ (which will be, perhaps surprisingly, in 3 parts on this site) I’ll start by looking at tablets.

In my self-styled role as retrospective prophet, I cry (usually in the wilderness) that the days of the humble ereader are well nigh over. Who wants a basic ereader when you can have an all singing, all dancing tablet?  Let’s ignore the fact that the very thing that made ereaders ‘great’ was their vaunted ‘as paper’ viewing interface and forget that tablets are really designed for the consumption of movies etc and so are just mini computer screens.  That’s just splitting hairs.


Writer, disturbed in the act of creation..
on OMG a 'netbook' How very 2011. 
My ears have never been good enough to warrant Bose (or similar). Or even stereo really. Certainly not surround sound.  This suggests to me that cut to the quick, technology is only as good as the recipient. In my case, don’t waste your money on expensive sound systems – just let me hear it and that’ll do me.  This year my eyes have ‘transitioned’ – or actually I have to say ‘got worse’ to the degree that I can finally conclusively state that as with sound, for me, so with vision. No point me having an HD screen, I don’t have eyes that can tell the difference.  And while I can admit that my original Kobo Touch had a nice screen (and you can read ebooks outside in the sun – on the rare days that’s possible in this country) the 10 inch screen of the iPad has won out for ease of reading. As long as I don’t read outside.  
Books?  Mugs? C'est un Pipe?

Everyone knows you can’t read computer screens outside, no matter what you do – and believe me I’ve tried EVERYTHING.  I have finally concluded that this is actually nature’s way of telling me that when I’m outside I should be working in the garden or reading a ‘real’ book.  (note I'm sparing you the gardening pics!) 

But what of the humble ereader you say?  Kobo Touch or Kindle Paperwhite.  Well, for me, I need a screen to be BIGGER. Certainly more than 6 or 7 inches. At that size, to be able to read at a resolution I am comfortable with I end up with about 3 words on a page and I’m sorry, but they put 300-500 words on a page in paperback books for a reason you know.  I don’t read newspapers or magazines primarily because I hate reading the little columns. And for me, if reading is made more difficult by size of font or page or column, I just can’t be bothered.  I don’t know if I’m a) old fashioned or b) just some kind of a freak but c) I just like to be able to read a whole page of text on a page. I think it’s a combination of the way my brain and eyes work together.   I need to be able to look at 10 or 11 point spread over a decent sized page to fully engage. Simple as.  And losing myself in the world of the words is what I read for.  So digital reading is only convenient for me if the screen is of an acceptable size. And that seems to be 10 inches. I’m sure it’s highly personal. I’m not advocating anything here, just stating my personal preference.

It's tablet Jim, but not as we know it. 
It occurs to me that these days with digital technology (and most other things) we can all more or less get more or less what we want more or less all of the time.  But have you noticed, we never seem to be able to get exactly what we want ANY of the time.  This is relevant to epublishing but to just about everything else as well.  I used to call this the ‘post-perfect’ world, but I think it’s now more appropriately called the ‘global impossible aspirational’ world into which vortex it seems most people are sucked most of the time. I try to avoid it myself, but…

Read this book... it's great
and it changed my life. 
What of the publishing revolution I hear you mutter…  Well the scales fell from my eyes (figaratively of course) when I read Fifty Years in the Fiction Factory, (by 'our own' Julia Jones) after which I embarked upon a fairly in depth study of publishing history (and found an answer more profound - personally - than unlocking the code to the Rosetta Stone!). It was a great adventure into the unknown for me. It changed my life. Really. Though I can't claim it will change YOUR life,  I can recommend Fifty Years as a holiday destination for the inquisitive mind of the modern writer and/or reader. Paperback or digital - either way the content is definitely King in this one. And the cover is great too isn't it? 

Julia recently  refered (on this site I think)  to the 19th century as ‘The Great Age of Print.’  I’ll get to that in step two of my revolution but we need to walk before we run, yes? Or at least put one foot in front of the other in some kind of chronologically ordered way?  We are still in stepping our first step here remember?  Which as everyone knows was the invention by Guthenberg of the Printing Press in the 15th century.

But wait a minute. What about BEFORE that.  How about a bit of pre-history – since my ‘argument’ here such as it is, is going to show that the 3 steps of publishing revolution are actually the completion of a circle. In the beginning was the tablet…

Tablet - from Mesopotamia.
Because hundreds, nay thousands of years before old Guthenberg, things were written on tablets.  Today, as far as I’m aware there is only one tablet you can actually write ON. The Samsung Galaxy Note. It strikes me as rather a good concept, but I haven’t actually seen or used one yet so I can’t give any guarantees. Whether it would accept my handwriting via a stylus is unlikely – these days I can’t even read my own handwriting!
The must have tablet for the writer c2014? 


But back in the day, I have been known to stand in awe in front of the Rosetta Stone (about as portable as early mobile phones) and various tablets of Linear B at Knossos. That was in the day when tablets were a thing of ‘history’ whereas now they are the latest must-have gadget. Is it any wonder I think that linear progression may not be all it’s cracked up to be – that maybe we work in a more cyclical pattern than we are ever aware of.  Which is possibly why stylistically I am stumbling from digression to digression here in my revolutionary footsteps. It’s not that I’ve lost sight of the linear argument, more that I’m losing confidence in it as a style to deliver my message (or any message) in our digital binary world.
Yay, this is something worth reading in any century! 

Well, okay, we all know the ‘ancients’ including of course the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used tablets. (Can you imagine the school essay cribbed from this… ‘the ancient Egyptians got Samsung Galaxy tablets for Xmas but the Romans preferred Android Ice Cream Sandwiches. The Greeks invented the ipad because they were cool and the Christians invented the Apple. )

What has changed? Over time what we write has changed – but we still keep records using symbols.  Guthenberg got rid of the tablet for a while with the printing press- the first step towards ‘revolutionsing’ the way we read and write- but today the real difference is that instead of writing on tablets the writing is ‘in’ them, flexibly.  Is that not the joy of binary and digital magic?  

Back in the day Brand Loyalty was the only book on the shelf!
Oh where are the heady days of 2010? 
You can carry more books on a Kindle (other ereaders are available, no, really, they are and they are quite good!) than ever existed when Guthenberg was a lad.  Never mind the quality folks, feel the width. 

I’m drawing to a close here and you may feel cheated. I haven’t really dealt with that FIRST publishing revolution at all, have I? That’s because I’m assuming that just about everyone and his cousin knows all about Guthenberg  and the printing press – if not I’m sure Wikipedia will fill you in. Because in our third digital age the writing of ‘historical facts’ is less popular  than polemic which is less popular than humour and I made a promise to myself to try and write things people might actually want to read in 2014. 

HoAmPresst - homage
to Guthenberg. 
Actually I made a promise to read much more than I write, but the blog page mammon must be fed on a monthly basis so that’s why you’ve got this.  Make of it what you will.  Next month we’ll get into the meat of the Ice-Cream Sandwich and I’ll talk about what Julia describes as ‘The Great Age of Print’ and what I, less prosaically call ‘The Second Publishing Revolution.’   Read it on tablet, on computer, on smartphone, or don’t read it at all… it’s up to you.


Happy 2014 readers one and all. How, when, where and why ever you engage with reading this year, I wish you many happy hours in a whole range of worlds you never imagine existed. And in one sense never did.  We live in a hugely divided world, but let's remember that as writers and more especially as readers, we have a shared love in common. Share the love in 2014 folks.  

I'll be back with Step 2 next month. Enjoy your reading adventures till then. 

3 comments:

madwippitt said...

"Reading in the garden (with a dog)" - yes please, I'd like a post on that, with picture of course. Would love to add it to my Dog Friendly Gardening blog during the warmer months!

Kathleen Jones said...

Enjoyed very much Cally!

Lydia Bennet said...

I see you points Cally but I love my kindle because it's not backlit, and I look at backlit screens enough, so I'm sticking with my humble old keyboard kindle until it falls to bits! and I remember Scottish tablet, it's lethal stuff! and edinburgh rock as well. my nana's 'visitors' from Glasgow brought them for me, clearly with murderous intent!