A Technology to Change the Face of Entertainment

Radioactive (Cover)
Lindsey Stirling & Pentatonix
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In the early 1950's an electronic communication technology became extremely popular, challenging the supremacy of the entertainment industry.  Before television, a handful of large, privately owned companies were the gatekeepers visual entertainment.  As television became a part of every day life, the production of movies by the big companies slowed and small independent studios rose to fill the gap.  It was believed that the film industry would die off, but yet, we still watch movies.

At the turn of the twenty first century, digital music rose to challenge the handful of large, privately owned companies that were the gatekeepers auditory entertainment.  With the increasing popularity of the MP3 format, it was predicted that CDs would disappear entirely.  This has yet to happen.

Early in the twentieth century, a third electronic communication technology became extremely popular and challenged the supremacy of a few large, private companies that stood as gatekeepers literary entertainment.  As a student of history, I am skeptical that physical books and traditional publishing will disappear.  The music and film industries did not, after all.  I do believe, however, that they will be forced to change in ways that will vary from what has come before due to several important factors that differentiate the three industries.

First, the eBook revolution is able to leverage the distribution infrastructure already in place for the digital music market.  As MP3s and their players became more popular, online services providing straight-to-consumer downloads arose and were matured.  By the time eBooks hit the market, many lessons could be learned from past failures or legal tangles.  This smoothed the introduction of the eBooks.

Second, the time investment in new music is counted in minutes, while movies only take a few hours.  Books, however, may take days or weeks to complete.  This distinction makes music listeners and movie goers more open to experimentation than many readers.

Third, creating a major motion picture still requires significant investment in capital and man power, more so than most individuals can field.  Though the initial investment in hardware and software can be in the thousands of dollars range for music or books, that figure is doable on an individual level.

As a caveat to this point, it is essential to note that in order to compete with a big house, the indie publisher must produce a product of equal or better quality.  One of the major advantages of working with a traditional house is their access to professional staffs.  Editors, typesetters, cover designers, proof readers and many more people play a significant role in making a book attractive to readers after the manuscript leaves the writer's hands.  Though an individual indie author can fulfill all these roles in-house, it isn't always advisable.  Each book is an investment of time and money, so why hurt its chances of success by doing amateurish work in those areas outside your expertise?  Hire professionals for what you cannot do professionally yourself.


4 Responses

  1. The other thin, for me, is that the digital versions of film and music did not lose anything in the experience. Stories, which are experienced, as you say, over days/weeks, feel less satisfying in digital form. Something about holding the book, turning the pages is essential to the enjoyment of a book. Similar, as I understand it, to the complaint against the e-cigarette. I have read that smokers find it less satisying for a number of reasons.

    • Nathan Barra says:

      Also true, but highly dependent on the person. Digital books are different than physical books, and each format must be weighed for it’s own pros and cons. There are some individuals I know that prefer to have eBooks, but for many, myself included, enjoy having a physical book to an eReader. However, I do also consume most of my literature through a digital format, as audiobooks. The convenience of having the book read to me, the savings in space in first my college dorm and then my apartment, and finally the value added by a good narrator has caused me to prefer this format over a physical medium. Those books I enjoy most have been purchased in physical copy because I wanted to experience that work again.

  2. “a traditional house is their access to professional staffs. Editors, typesetters, cover designers, proof readers”

    I continue to read that this is not as true as it used to be. That everything on down to marketing has fallen to the author in terms of responsibility. I think this is one of the reasons traditional publishers are losing business to indies. Great post Nathan. Thnak you.

    • Nathan Barra says:

      I actually had the words “marketing staff” in an early version of the post, but removed it for the very same reason you reference. Yes, more responsibilities are being shifted to the author, even in a traditional contract, but those roles that I mentioned specifically are still some of the reasons that I would go with a traditional house. Especially the editing staff. Cover designers and someone to do the copy for me are both very, very nice to have, but I have enough contacts in the business now to hire that out for a reasonable price. It’s the editing that remains to be expensive! However, as an author, I cannot in good conscious forgo it. Yes, I do my own editing passes, but the interaction I have had with my beta readers and other professionals has been essential to making my book better.

      The major problem I see with many indie books is amateurish work outside the prose. I’ve seen some real gems (from the perspective of the writing) be housed in very poorly done settings because the author overstretched. They wanted to do everything themselves for creative control and ended up hurting their final product. With the rise of the indie publisher has come an entire indie industry. Editors, designers, typesetters and the like are all available for private hire and are still an essential part of the process in my mind.

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