Tag Archives: digital age

The rise of digital publishing and the death of the author

On seeing The Guardian‘s article on digital publishing and the death of the author, I was immediately reminded of my English BA days when I wrote about Roland  Barthes’ essay on ‘The death of the author’. Despite the differences in context, it appears that appealing to readers is more important to authors than writing titles that make a lot of money.

Digital Book World (DBW) surveyed 1,600 self-published authors and only 20% of those claimed it was “extremely important” to “make money writing books”. On the other hand, 56% said that publishing a “book that people will buy” was more important. Of course, in this day and age, social media/online platforms make it far more easier for authors to distribute their works. What’s more is that this also allows them to find audiences for their work. While digital publishing has indeed proved an advantage to authors in some instances, the DBW survey also stated that 54% of traditionally published and 80% of self-published authors earn less than £600 each year.

While the surge of self publishing combined with digital means that discoverabilty of literature is easier online in particular, it also means that the definition of an author is almost being devalued as a result. This is emphasised by Hugh Howey’s statement (Howey actually sold thousands of copies of his book, Wool, on Amazon prior to finding a publisher):

the self-publishing revolution has allowed “hundreds of thousands of voracious readers with a dream of writing a novel” to write books “out of love and passion, just like a kid goes out and dribbles a basketball for hours every day or kicks a soccer ball against a garage wall”. But over the past few decades we wouldn’t have called these people “writers” any more than we would call that kid in the back yard a footballer. If all it takes to be a writer is to stick your work online then we’re all writers now.

Howey further states that self-publishing is currently going through a “renaissance”. Today’s new authors do not have the same amount of experience  and “market maturity” to go up against the 1% of authors who have had numerous years of experience.

I guess if I was to link in some criticism here, I would use that of Michel Foucault’s What Is An Author? (1969):

The idea of the author is not a timeless figure: the figure and significance of the author varies across time, and from one culture to another, from one discourse to another and so on.

Drawing from what Howey states, and Foucault many years prior to this article, is the death of the author an actual occurrence? Or is it simply going through yet another change?

Picture by Donald D Palmer, 1997

Picture by Donald D Palmer, 1997

Image comes from: http://suewatling.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/tag/death-of-the-author/ [Accessed: 27.01.14]

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A ‘digital-first’ future for publishing?

Whilst carrying out my regular scouring of the internet for anything publishing related, I came across the term digital-first. On looking more into the term, it appears that many publishers are looking to release new titles in digital format only, in order to predict as to whether the book can sell well in print format. Some of the first publishers to trial this new concept are HarperCollins and Harlequin.

The former announced earlier this year that mystery line, Witness Impulse, would be one of the first lines which the publisher would release digital-first. The first ten titles shall be released in October under the imprint, William Morrow.

Dan Mallory, the man behind the line noted that digital-first publishing was the most effective way to market unknown books and authors. He also highlighted that the launch involved libraries as they aim to deliver titles through ebook loans. Shawn Nicholls, marketing director for Impulse (an imprint of Morrow), mentioned that digital-first is ‘part of a larger branding campaign to build sales for midlist authors overall and to help readers discover’.

As  my previous blog entry suggests, discovering books through digital formats, i.e. the internet in particular, will become easier with apps such as BookVibe. Integration with digital is increasingly becoming a part of everybody’s daily life. Should ‘digital-first’ be embraced by more publishers in the future, it can be suggested that browsing for books online will become easier. (Now don’t even get me started on what this will mean for bricks-and-mortar booksellers!)


‘Internet English’ destroying language?

The Guardian published an article today which piqued my interest. It posed the question: Is internet English debasing the language?

It got me thinking that with the evolution in internet technology constantly changing, what does this mean for the English language and is it being devalued as a result? And with the digital era in publishing, does this also devalue the English language in e-publications?

Robert McCrum, former editor-in-chief at Faber & Faber and current associate editor for The Observer, stated his concern over ‘the abuse and impoverishment of English online’ and what he perceives as ‘the overall crassness of English prose in the age of global communications (being blogs, emails, etc.)’

He did also mention the fact that depending on various websites and blogs, there is bad and very good writing all over the web. McCrum stated that ‘there’s just more writing at all levels of quality’. It can be argued that more people have access to the internet in this day and age and people are communicating through a multitude of mediums, therefore English is likely to be written in different levels of quality. With social media having a vast presence on the internet, today, and different generations using the sites, the quality of English language will undoubtedly vary. Take Twitter, for example. Twitter users base their entire communication messages on 140 characters or less, therefore creating a different level of English, for example, some people may choose to use ‘text’ language in which to get their full message across.

It has already been seen with the rise of ebook technology, that some ebooks may be published with grammatical errors which poses the question as to whether the English language is devalued in e-publications. There is no denying the surge in ebooks being published over the past year, and particularly with the many options available for people to self-publish their works, the quality of what is being published may not be to as high a standard as ebooks which might have been published by a publisher. In addition, many academic publishers are enhancing people’s access to journals through online access, and with the introduction of Open Access, does this mean that the English language could be devalued? In particular for academic publishers, I feel that the standard of publishing is too high for it to be thwarted by the internet.

So, as publishers continue to adapt to the digital age, it will be interesting to see how ‘internet English’ will continue to change the way in which we write over all aspects of the internet.

Do you think ‘internet English’ is destroying language?

Another article which may be of interest: George Orwell’s critique of internet English