Effects of New Media on the Publishing World

The effects of New Media on the publishing world; more and more people are turning to e-books and online publishing websites in the hopes of getting their works published, rather than traditional publishing methods.

In recent years society seems to have become more and more dependent on the internet. We use the net for shopping, communication, news from around the world, listening to music, even dating as well as its many other uses. We have become so used to having the world at our fingertips which means that we don’t have to leave the house. This begs the question: Is it such a surprise that the publishing world took so long to catch up?

E-books seem to be bearing the brunt of the blame for bookshops, such as Waterstones and Borders shutting down. However, one has to question whether this would have been inevitable in the current economic climate. The e-book industry is revolutionising the publishing world. The industry is developing every day. Take for example the development of e-inks to make reading on e-book devices easier on the eyes.

E-books are becoming increasingly popular amongst readers, writers and publishers. They offer a more accessible way of reading, minus the bulky books. They are more cost-effective with publishers often offering deals on bulk buying. Meanwhile, publishers also offer free online reads on their websites to entice readers to buy books from new authors or new books from favourite authors. Publishers are embracing e-books and online publishing to keep up with the times and the people.

Like all movements the change to online publishing and e-books started at a professional or academic level. Scholars and academics use sites like Jstor, Literature Online (LION) and 18th Century Collections Online, as well as many others, to publish their own works or works that are studied at a University level. The use of online publishing and e-books bypasses the issue of the cost of publishing as well as the delay that is involved when one submits their work to an Academic Journal.

In his article: “Electronic Scholarly Editions” Kenneth Price1 vouches for the use of New Media as a way of publishing scholarly work. Although he does admit that this form of publishing is not without its drawbacks. As we know the internet as a form of media is not stable. Programmes can become obsolete and information can be lost, take for example the Chaucer programme. Price states that, “Having the ability, potentially, of reaching a vast audience is one of the great appeals of online work.”2 And:

In the past the fate of the monumental scholarly edition was clear: it would land on library shelves and, with rare exceptions, be purchased only by the most serious and devoted specialists. Now a free scholarly edition can be accessed by people all over the world with vastly different backgrounds and training.3

E-books and online publishing is more suited to the busy lifestyle which we lead today, where we do not have the time to peruse the library for hours on end searching for a book. By using online publishing, advancements such as “tagging” and “searching” allows readers to find exactly what they are looking for.

However, recently the internet has picked up in popularity; more and more people are turning to the internet to write. The changeover to online publishing and e-books may have started with academics but soon professional writers started writing to promote their own writing as citizen journalism became more popular. Today anyone can set up a blog at the click of a button, if the will takes them. As I mentioned earlier the internet has created a cyber-culture. A new world has already developed around writing on the internet. Take Aimeée Morrison’s article: “Blogs and Blogging: Text and Practice”4 in which he states that “Current estimates suggest that a new blog is created every second”. Morrison documents the uses and developments of the blog of which there is a huge variety. The “Blogosphere” is a whole new world and with it comes the creation of a new language.

Online publishers are becoming more and more popular. Some websites are hybrids of social networking sites which allow the users to play games and listen to music as well as publish their own stories and poems, such as Quzilla.com. While others like Lulu.com allow the user to design their own books and sell it without the hassle of the publishers. Other sites like booksie.com focus solely on the getting stories out there.

The main focus of this project is an online publishing website called Wattpad.com. This site was set up in 2006 by two Canadians named Alan Lau and Ivan Yuen. Today it is one of the more popular e-book apps for mobile devices and was listed in the Top 100. There are over 100,000 works shared on Wattpad every month. The website claims that “Wattpad is the YouTube for e-books”. Even the way in which I discovered Wattpad, (in the “App” store on the iPod) shows how advanced the e-book industry has become. Wattpad mixes publishing and social networking so that it creates a unique world for readers, writers and publishers. The site allows users to incorporate their Facebook and Twitter accounts into their profiles to create a bigger community for sharing. The site is also affiliated with a number of publishers including: Penguin, Harper Teen, Simon&Schuster and 4StoryMedia. Wattpad also offers the ability to add links to a story, for example, many of the writers like to include songs in the sidebar which they believe add to the atmosphere of the story. The story now has audio as well as text; in some cases the story is also visual as the author may add pictures. Suddenly there is a whole new dimension to reading.

Wattpad has advantages and disadvantages for readers, writers and publishers. Although some of these can be said of many online publishing websites.

The advantages for readers are bountiful. The stories are free. The stories can be read on e-book devices which are mobile and easily accessible, great for long journeys, rather than carrying books. Readers can keep a library of the books they read on the site to stay up to date with their favourite stories and can “Fan” their favourite authors: this means that the reader will get an email update when the author updates a story or starts a new one. They are able to interact with the authors and other readers who have similar interests through the “Commenting” and “Private Messaging” features on the site.

The disadvantages for the readers would be that mobile devices are run on battery which may run out while you are reading. The quality of the writing on the site is sometimes an issue as the works are mostly unedited. Another major downside of e-book devices is that people claim looking at a small screen for long periods of time causes migraines and eyestrain.

The advantages for writers are that they get feedback from their readers, which helps them to improve their writing. They get a chance to be noticed by publishers who use the site to find new talent from the “What’s Hot” list. Writers get the chance to create a fan base through collecting followers on the site.

The disadvantages for writers are also ones which need to be worked out especially around copyright issues, as online publishing becomes more and more popular. As online publishing is largely unregulated without deadlines enforced by editors and publishers while stories are regularly updated they can occasionally be infrequent. Another disadvantage is that online publishing, on sites like Wattpad, does not offer writers a way to earn a living.

Meanwhile, publishers have the opportunity to spot new talent from the site. The “What’s Hot” list and other books which have received a high number of votes from the readers give the publishers an idea of what readers wanted. Publishers also have the ability to promote new authors and new books on the site: this allows them to get feedback on the stories, thus allowing them to gauge whether they will be able to sell the books.

Publishers also have problems with copyright issues. If publishers find a story which they deem to be worthy of publication they cannot be sure that the person who published the story online owns the rights to it. Also, in cases where the stories which are being offered for free and are of readable quality they may be taking readers away from authors which publishing houses have signed.

Wattpad also offers opportunities to people who would like to be involved in other areas of publishing. You can gain experience from editing works on the site or by designing book covers to go on the thumbnail of the book. Online publishing is a growing industry

There have been some success stories from this method of publishing. Leigh Fallon published her story on InkPop.com, a site set up by HarperCollins to find potential writers. Her book was so popular among readers that she was offered a book deal. “The Carrier of the Mark” will be on shelves by September 2011. This shows that by embracing the online publishing medium publishers are open to new opportunities.

With publishers, readers and writers embracing this new media one is reminded of Alan Liu’s article which suggests that each form of new media is influenced by the last. Wattpad is a reminder of how stories like Sherlock Holmes would be published in serials in the late 1800s. Wattpad stories are updated with different chapters being added by the author.

Online publishing is a new form of media. It is growing every day and communities are getting bigger, people are still developing new methods of publishing online and fixing glitches like those mentioned in the disadvantages above. However, like the native in the McLuhan example given by Liu in his article5 people are not shying away from this new form of media. They are embracing it.


Bibliography:

Bell, David & Kennedy Barbara M. The Cyber-Cultures Reader, London: Routledge, 2000.

Liu, Alan, “Imagining the New Media Encounter”, A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Ray Siemens, Susan Schreibman. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.  Online.

Available: http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companionDLS/

Accessed: 17 March 2011

Manovich, Lev, The Language of New Media. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001

Morrison, Aimeée, “Blogs and Blogging: Text and Practice”, A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Ray Siemens, Susan Schreibman. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.  Online.

Available: http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companionDLS/

Accessed: 17 March 2011

Price, Kenneth, “Electronic Scholarly Editions”, A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Ray Siemens, Susan Schreibman. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.  Online.

Available: http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companionDLS/

Accessed: 17 March 2011

Turkle, Sherry, Life on the Screen, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995

Vandendorpe, Christian, “Reading on Sceen: The New Media Sphere, A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Ray Siemens, Susan Schreibman. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.  Online.

Available: http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companionDLS/

Accessed: 17 March 2011


1 Price, Kenneth “Electronic Scholarly Editions”, A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Ray Siemens, Susan Schreibman. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.  Online.

2 Ibid

3 Ibid.

4 Morrison, Aimeée “Blogs and Blogging: Text and Practice” A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Ray Siemens, Susan Schreibman. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.  Online.

5 Liu, Alan. "Imagining the New Media Encounter" A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Ray Siemens, Susan Schreibman. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.  Online."