I found the emphasis behind the session for Future of the Book really fascinating, especially as it's one that's inciting so many contentious discussions at the moment. There was a minor kerfuffle about it on Twitter a month or so ago, prompted in part by something Tom Coates said, which was really interesting but awkward to follow, and it's a subject that's been popping up in the blogosphere for quite a while.
Unfortunately, the session was a little disappointing in that the discussion was just getting really interesting when we had to stop and move onto the second round of sessions. However, since it's already an active topic in the blogosphere, I see no reason why it shouldn't just continue it there.
One thing that we didn't have time to discuss properly at the panel is that it's not just about text-based books, of course, so much as traditionally printed matter generally. Joanna Geary has been raising the issue of the future of newspapers over on her blog quite a lot lately. She makes a great point in a recent post on the subject here:
"The people who queued outside The Washington Post for their special edition on Obama's victory would tell you there was a value to print and it has been argued that this is proof that newspaper is still the format of choice for important events. "People didn’t print out the news on their computers", goes the argument. [...]
What it does prove is that there is an innate value placed on print that is not just defined by efficiency or speed of delivery. There is something valuable about it as an object [...] Digital is, at the moment, still considered too transient a medium for keepsakes."
This is also something that's come up in relation to comics recently, as well. Last week I had a brief chat with Doctoe about the potential of interactive online comics — stuff along the lines of what Daniel Merlin Goodbrey does with his hypercomics, which opens up a whole new way of reading — and writing for — that particular medium.
In fact, every form of traditional printed matter is affected, and it's having an effect on the way we communicate with each other already. As one example, just look at how many times a printed advert will refer you to the website for proper, complete information rather than display it on the advert itself (TfL do it an awful lot, for example. And then have completely contradictory information).
One of the issues raised in the session that I did find really intriguing was the notion of how to create spaces for readers/viewers to actively feed back into the original work, not just saying if they liked it or not, but actually collaborating and creating new things off the buzz of the initial idea. A guy called Richard Galbraith (thank you, name-tags) said that he is currently "alpha-publishing" his novel as a PDF available on his blog so that people can collaborate via feedback, providing illustrations and a soundtrack. He has the idea that when finally published, the book can come with a USB stick to contain the music/image files, plus having a launch party with an exhibition and a gig. That sounds like a great way to utilise social media and old school media without either one of them having to be considered as "lesser" than the other, and also a wonderful way to keep the buzz alive and organically growing, especially if each collaborant1 also opens up their own work to active feedback via their own blogs.
This also raised the idea that there is a new model for publishing which is emerging, as more people are taking control of their own work and its destination, instead of all trying to cram through one tiny gateway into the world of established publishing. The question is whether people have already forgotten about the previous model, and whether we even need it anymore, or whether it's worth holding onto it to learn from where it went wrong (which is always something to consider whatever the medium).
There's also a really good report of this session up on girlygeekdom.
1I know there's no such word, and really the correct word is collaborationist, but I think my version is more elegant, don't you?