Good Reading : November 2009
22 goodreading ı NOVEMBER 2009 code into a website lets the reader watch a three-minute clip called a 'cyber-bridge'. Watching the clip isn't necessary to enjoy the book, but Zuiker is apparently hoping the multimedia additions will attract people who don't nor mally read. 'Some books will have more synergy with the digital world,' says Osmond. 'Fantasy audiences might be drawn to enhanced content in digital for m, but maybe your traditional literary writer is less interested in augmented experiences.' Another way that publishers are using the digital world to attract readers is through multimedia promotions. 'We had a promotion on our website for Ranger's Apprentice,' says Osmond. 'It's an Australian series that's become a phenomenon and we made one book free [as an e-book] for a limited two-week period.' Osmond says if people can read one book as a sample, it often translates into sales for the rest of the series. Weiss, who is very optimistic about the benefits of digital publishing, believes the future of the book is safe. 'I would take the line that video didn't kill film. Nar rative, the linear for m, is very old. It's an ancient part of human civilisation,' argues Weiss. 'We are seeing new for mats and modes of presenting narrative, but we're not going to lose the old for m. It's an excellent way of representing ideas that need an extended argument.' What she does predict is that there will be fewer physical books around in the future. 'Oil prices are going to goupinthenext10yearsandsois the cost of paper,' she says. 'Shipping and freighting heavy lumps of trees across Australia has to put pressure on prices.' But the books that are available, paradoxically, may be more attractive than ever. In a world where digital books are the nor m, a book printed on paper is worth making an effort over. Readers can expect to buy ever more beautiful books, with lavish illustrations and fine papers. 'In the last 10 years, the quality of book production has gone up,' says Weiss. 'Partly it's to do with what's possible, but it's also a sense that we're in different ter ritory.' Other changes she sees ahead is that the days of wandering into a secondhand bookstore and discovering forgotten gems, or old favourites, may soon draw to a close. Making books available on e-readers means they will be perpetually available, readily downloadable, keeping older books in circulation. This means out-of-print books will not become the rarities they are today. In all of the excitement about digital publishing, it does bring one serious risk with it: electronic files can be tampered with, or even deleted. This actually happened in July this year, when Amazon deleted George Orwell's 1984 -- of all books -- from the Kindle devices of customers.They did it, apparently, because the company that issued the digital edition didn't have the rights to it. Not surprisingly, Kindle owners reacted with fury. Although Amazon has promised not to do it again, it's clearly possible. Likewise, e-readers have been designed so that the digital books downloaded to them can't be swapped between computers. This means that the owner of a digital book can't lend it, sell it or donate it to a library. Even more disturbing is an apocalyptic scenario whereby something serious happens to the world's electronic infrastructure, causing all the digital libraries to vanish, and taking millions of books with them. For all of these reasons, the physical book will remain a vital object no matter how exciting digitisation becomes. But things are definitely evolving -- and in ways that are certain to benefit Australian writers. 'For publishers and authors who are alert and flexible, there are lots of benefits,' says Weiss. 'As an Australian publisher, we can get our books out in the inter national market on similar ter ms to books published in the US and UK in ways that weren't possible before.' She says Allen & Unwin had a surprise success with a textbook in the UK. Since the book wasn't ready as a physical object, it was made available as an e-book. 'This is just wonderful.' For Osmond, rather than digital publishing killing books, he thinks it might be the making of them. After looking closely at why large numbers of Australians don't read, he thinks that drawing them in to a digital experience may be the gateway to reading. 'Maybe through new forms they will be encouraged and entertained to read -- but it's still about stories that require the use of the imagination.' A gr reader has managed to get her hands on a Kindle. See page 52 to read Amy Paterson's thoughts about her e-reader. fully booked Brett Osmond, director of marketing and publicity at Random House.
December January 2010