Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Crystal Ball Gazing by John G. Hartness

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by John G. Hartness
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Crystal Ball Gazing - The Future of the Book
by John G. Hartness

I attended a panel this weekend at ConCarolinas in Charlotte, NC on “The Future of the Printed Word,” and brought back what I thought were some fascinating ideas. So I figured I’d share them with you, and see what you think the future brings for books as an artifact.

My first caveat - I make the majority of my writing income via e-books. The vast majority. And as a self-published author, my books are typically only available in bookstores as special order, due to the bookstore industry’s return policies. So while I love bookstores, and love browsing in them and the ambience, the vast majority of them won’t stock my books and won’t show me any love. So I will weep fewer tears than many people if Barnes & Noble and Borders shut down massive numbers of stores. Just wanted to get that out there.

One thing that was brought up by Stuart Jaffe of Magical Words, was an idea that I agree with wholeheartedly. Stuart posited that the mass market paperback was one likely victim of the rise of e-books, but that a resurgence of hardcovers may very well occur. Imagine a world where the predominant format of a book isn’t a cheaply made paperback, but a digital file - DRM free - that you can easily move from your phone, to your e-reader, to your PC, to your tablet.

But also living in this world, for those books you love and want to read over and over again and share with friends and have as a piece of art - are hardback books. And not just the cheap pressed-paper hardbacks we’re used to, but beautiful leather-bound editions, books that are special, books that are as artistic on the outside as they are on the inside. That’s where I think things will end up. Just like vinyl is making a comeback in limited edition releases for audiophile (and lovers of full-size album art), books as works of art may well see a resurgence.

I think there’s no doubt that the e-book will be the predominant format in which reading material is consumed. It just logically follows the historical pattern. The iPod killed the CD. Streaming video killed the DVD. And the e-book will kill the paperback. But please note that nothing has killed the story.

I hear a lot of people say “I love the smell of a book.” I tend to ask those people if they have mold. Really, kids? You love the smell of a book, or you love the feeling of reading because it takes you back to a time when you felt safe, and you have a sense memory of those times? Be honest.

Like I said, I love bookstores. And what I see for bookstores is great for real bibliophiles, and bad for wage slaves in corporate America. Because I do see big bookstore chains folding or morphing into something unrecognizable as a bookstore. But I see independent bookstores making a comeback.

Just like music lovers prefer their indie record store to Best Buy, book lovers will have to go somewhere for educated recommendations and to get those limited edition hardcovers. And have a cup of coffee and talk about books with people. And swipe a card at the register and have the Espresso book machine in the corner print whatever you want to buy on demand while you wait.

Yeah, those machines are real, and are in use in a few places already. They’re not quite ready for prime time yet, but once they are, indie bookstores can focus their inventory much more narrowly, and then just print off whatever the customer wants that isn’t in stock. Then your indie bookstore comes back with a vengeance, because while you’re waiting for the new James Patterson to print, they can recommend you to the new John Hartness vampire novel that they just know you’ll love.

So yeah, the world is changing rapidly. And all this is my speculation, because none of us knows where it’s going. But I promise you one thing - I’ll be here with my books in some form or another to see what it looks like when the world finishes changing.

A bit about the author:

John G. Hartness is a recovering theatre geek who likes loud music, fried pickles and cold beer. He’s been published or accepted online in several journals including The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, cc&d, Deuce Coupe and Truckin’.

His first novel, The Chosen, is an urban fantasy about saving the world, snotty archangels, gambling, tattooed street preachers, immortals with family issues, bar brawls and the consequences of our decisions.

He followed up The Chosen with Hard Day’s Knight, a new twist on the vampire detective novel and the first in a planned series of at least five books. The second book of The Black Knight Chronicles, Back in Black, landed in March 2011 and has enjoyed immediate success.

John has been called “the Kevin Smith of Charlotte,” and fans of Joss Whedon and Jim Butcher should enjoy his snarky slant on the fantasy genre. His next novel, Knight Moves (Black Knight Chronicles Vol. 3) is due out in the summer of 2011.

He can be found online at and spends too much time on Twitter, especially after a few drinks.


Guest post by John G. Hartness author of Hard Day's Knight
© 2011. All rights reserved.

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by John G. Hartness
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--~ eBook Giveaway courtesy of author ~--

Hard Day's Knight
by John G. Hartness - my review

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