A manifesto for the future of the book

A manifesto for the future of the book

How easy it is to keep replicating the same old same old. Want to stop replicating print in digital? "Lock your marketing department away for six months," advises narrative theory specialist Tom Abba in today's manifesto. Lamenting, as do many others, the "books under glass" disappointment of most ebook efforts to date, he writes: "Print is kicking and the novel is breathing. Writers are poor and you are squandering opportunities." We should, he tells us, take better advantage of "this chance for change, for real disruption." -- Porter Anderson


This is not good enough

Repeat after me. 

This. 
Is. 
Not. 
Good. 
Enough. 

What are we building? What is it we’re making?

The best we have are books under glass, enhancements with video and clicking and audio. Imprisoned and ridiculed and not what was promised. 

The book is not dead. Print is kicking and the novel is breathing. Writers are poor and you are squandering opportunities. This chance for change, for real disruption.
Repeat after me. 

This. 
Is. 
Not. 
Good. 
Enough. 

Digital is different and digital’s new.

It’s going to break you, or it’s going to ignore you (as it’s already done). If you don’t engage it, nothing will follow. It can remake your business, but only if you let it.
Repeat after me. 

This. 
Can. 
Be. 
Good. 
Enough. 

Enough rhyming. Facts. Digital is new and it is old.

It remakes and remediates. It is new content and it can be old content, but it is capable of things that print cannot do, and it cannot do what print can. 

Get that through your heads. It cannot do what print can. That is what print is for. 

The future of the book is not "locking a group of employees in a room and asking them to lose money for six months". It should be bold, and clever, and innovative and experimental and confident and it should be new. And it should be now, and here already. 

The future requires courage, because the future has to be conversational. If it is secret, if it hides away from discussion, and conviction, then it cuts off the blood supply that is digital, and dialogue, and cultivation. 

The future of the book has to be iterated. It is not business as usual. Business as usual is not a strategy, it is denial. Denial of opportunity, denial of the chance to make something new. 

That’s the heart of it. How often does this opportunity arise? To make the world? To build something completely fresh? You can invent the future, you can create what we’ve never seen. 

Repeat after me. 

This. 
Can. 
Be. 
Incredible. 
 

The future of the book is a wedding of form and content.

It is rethinking the whole endeavour on a massive, and tiny, scale. It is the chance, it is the only chance, you will ever have, to make it. It is new writing, it is new form, new experiences, new content and new books.
It is technology and melancholy, glory and romance, fictions told between page and screen, books that go beyond the page, story untethered from the book. 

It is going to be different and it is going to be complex and it is going to be simple. It is going to scare you and you will need your wits and your gut and your courage.
Repeat after me. 

This. 
Will. 
Be. 
Incredible. 

Now let’s get on with it. Here’s my number. And lock your marketing department away for six months instead. They’re going to hate what happens next. 


We're interested in having your "Five-Minute Manifesto" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article, Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones renews his call for the FutureBook audience to reflect on five years of digital "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response is so robust that I've extended our deadline for submissions of manifestos to Monday (7th September). See below for details and a list of those published to date. Your statement, preferably no more than 500 words, should be sent to Porter.Anderson@theBookseller.com. Please send along a headshot and short bio, as well.

And mark your diary for The FutureBook Conference, 4th December, The Mermaid, London. More details are coming Tuesday 8th September.

#FutureBook15 manifestos:

Main image - iStockphoto: BaleFire9