The Madrid Book Fair is but a warm memory and Frankfurt was freezing but I still have pixels dancing in my eyes. Surrounded by beautiful books at the Frankfurt Buchmesse, in all languages, styles and formats I’m still following my new fascination with the ebook and POD (print on demand). They live in different worlds but complement the traditional by satisfying both the new and the old way of living and reading. I left the Madrid Book Fair with the strong feeling that an awful lot of Spanish publishers have their heads firmly under the blankets, peering out at the world every now and then hoping the whole ebook and ereader thing will go away.
The more I learn about the world of publishing as it traditionally still is, the more horrified I am. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. Does it have to be this difficult? The new world, however, is an equalizer. The big publisher, the small, the new and the old can now compete on the same playing field, each creating its own business model (except for those who continue to resist and will join the race too late). All bets are off. Traditional publishing has to change and it’s the new publishers who will crack it first. They don’t have any rules to live by or old habits restricting their creativity. They make the new rules as they go along.
Finally, and I mean at last, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to publish a book, or take years, and years and years before it happens. Manuscripts still warm from the writer’s computer can be in the hands of the readers at a speed that authors dream of and can now finally realise. The printed book will not disappear but its role will change. As long as human contact and human emotion exist (as one speaker so eloquently commented), books will exist. The book won’t go the way of vinyl but even that has developed its own cachet and market. Books will eventually be considered more than ever before as gift items, souvenirs, special presents. For that, the quality of the printed book (and I particularly mean fiction) has to improve: the paper, the print, the design, to meet that market. Walking through the antiquarian book fair I can see what we’ve lost: the beautifully tooled hardbacks, the coloured drawings, the stitching, the attention to detail. What we perceive we are losing as the ereader becomes the norm, we can recover by returning to the days the printed book was truly a treasured possession. Perhaps we are a few years (not that many, really) from that yet but there’s no harm in planning ahead.
I’m convinced now of my new direction. I’ve just got to figure out how on earth to do it. Any thoughts?