#FutureChat recap: How does our digital garden grow?

#FutureChat recap: How does our digital garden grow?

Ask The FutureBook community what's powering digital in publishing today and -- of course -- you get some who want to say, basically, "what digital?" And after our weekly #FutureChat session Friday, Michigan-based writer (and self-styled "Daring Novelist") Camille LaGuire took to her blog to follow up with some commentary to the effect that, if anything, publishing is trying too hard to tech-up, while all readers want from it is the content. In Thoughts on innovation and publishing from #FutureChat, she writes, emphases hers:
What modern, up-to-date consumers need from publishers is flexibility. We need to be able to consume our content in whatever way we currently like best. And more importantly, we need to be able to consume it in whatever way we will like best next week. Because that will be different. So when it comes to delivering content digitally, simple is better. No fancy formatting (don't define the fonts and layout -- let the reader choose their own defaults) interactivity via links only. The idea is that content creators should focus on content, and let the delivery be handled by the forms people are using.
We had based our #FutureChat on my Bookseller colleague Joshua Farrington's report on early returns from The FutureBook Digital Census, full results of which will be revealed at The FutureBook Conference, #FutureBook14, on 14th November. As Farrington wrote in his article:
So far more than 1,000 respondents have completed the survey about the digital book industry, with close to 60% indicating that plain vanilla e-books are still leading the transition.
LaGuire saw this as representative of a misguided assumption on the part of publishing people that they need to do more than simply stand their content on existing technologically enabled platforms:
This week, we were discussing the fact that ebooks were still basically plain "vanilla" ebooks -- just linear text. And yes, basically the same format as oral storytelling. It was noted that attempts to innovate -- particularly with interactive books -- have failed to catch fire. Some people see this as a sign that the reading public is behind the curve. I see it as the opposite: technology has so far bypassed the publishing industry [and] that even the general public, and laggards, are ahead of the publishing industry. Publishing's most bleeding edge thinkers are, thus, coming up with ideas that suit the technology and world of decades ago.
So, no surprise, I walked right into LaGuire's extensive thinking on the matter when I asked: From early-morning Los Angeles, the author James Scott Bell had drawn a parallel between ebooks and another format development in publishing: As long as we were talking about history repeating itself, Bell noted that both the initial stigma and the phenomenon of outlier success had been seen in the advent of mass-market paperbacks, as they have been with ebooks, particularly in the self-publishing space: Making a note to try to remember Bell's phrase "transient fiction," we logged in David Neal's basic agreement with early survey opinions that the straightforward ebook is driving digital in publishing at the moment: In Montana, Carol Buchanan wanted to know if we've already hit the wall, then: In London, Karla Pett pointed out that -- even if LaGuire thinks the publishing industry lags all things contemporary, the readers, too, may not be ready for more advanced formulations. She made the argument for the print-replicating "plain old vanilla" ebook: London consultant Sheila Boundford -- whom we'd just seen in Frankfurt as a fellow panel chair at the Authoright-produced afternoon of English-language sessions for authors -- noted that some of the format and tech questions moving around the conversation were dependent on the material involved: All Brain founder Marcello Vena -- another Frankfurt colleague, who joined the Alliance of Independent Authors' Orna Ross and me in a Business Club Master Class -- was clearly aligned wit the logic of the "plain vanilla ebook's" hardiness: Dave McLeod, driving the @ReedsyHQ handle Friday -- Reedsy, which we've covered here at The FutureBook, now is taking sign-ups by authors -- wondered about "enhanced" and nonfiction: And when I asked what seems to be hindering digital progress in publishing, London's Caleb Woodbridge spoke right up: Bounford, of course, is talking about a direction advocated by some in publishing toward what is often called "the networked book," in which a book exists basically as a Web site and is fully integrated with whatever services and associated texts and other elements that a readership might want or need. In fact, in the open-Web movement, such a book is acted upon, in a sense, by the community, which brings to it various connective components and can modify a reader's experience of it (should the reader select given modifications) through interactivity. But, then, asked our colleague Carla Douglas in Ontario: We arrived at the inevitable DRM Moment in the conversation when in Chicago, author Jane Steen had a good thought about user access in terms of digital: While Woodbridge and Bounford were still approaching the Web-ness of our future: And so were we -- on our way out -- as we were nearing the end of our #FutureChat hour. We'd soon be reading LaGuire's follow-up post and will be looking forward to this Friday's chat, as well. We'll give LaGuire the last word (from her post) and see you, I hope, on Friday -- do join us:
You could say that the things that really transform the book are not about transforming the book. They're about taking advantage of other, already created resources. It's about understanding the new paradigm -- which is about connection.

Our #FutureChat conversations with The FutureBook.net digital publishing community on Twitter are held Fridays: 4 p.m. London time; 11 a.m. New York time; 8 a.m. Los Angeles; 5 p.m. Berlin; 3 p.m. GMT. Everyone is welcome to join in. Registration now is open for The FutureBook Conference 2014 -- 14th November at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster. Main image - Shutterstock: Showcake