We are becoming people of the screen instead of people of the book. I have been a person of the book, but I am becoming a person of the screen. It is not an easy transition. I write in a two-story library full of books that I love (that’s one part of it above). Few things give me as much pleasure as sitting in an overstuffed chair late at night in my library reading from my books. I especially love my illustrated tomes and art books. They help me dream. I am surrounded by pages. We have floor to ceiling bookshelves in our bedroom as well. In our living room. In our den. In our kitchen. Books everywhere!
But I will get rid of 90% of these books as soon as I can get a digital copy of them. I work with books. I wrestle with them, play with them, mark them, write in them, dog-ear them, talk to them. I use them. But my books on paper, as gorgeous as they look, are usually bimbos. I can’t search them, clip them, cut and paste their best parts, share their highlights, or my marginalia, link them to my other books, or continue our conversation for very long. That’s why I am moving to digital books as fast as I can.
As much as possible I am only purchasing digital books now. And starting this year I will be primarily publishing in digital media. “Digital First.” Paper may come later, but it will be secondary.
The challenge for me so far is: how do you do digital publishing? I know how to do it on the web (you’re reading it here now), but how do you create and publish on an iPad app? What tools should I use? What about an ibook for the Nook? What tools should I use then? What about self-publishing a book on the Kindle? How do I do that? It’s somewhat easy to see how one might do this with an all text book, but what about images? How do you make pages flick on a screen? How do you put in hot spots in an illustration? Where do I do the design of the page?
So many questions! And so much potential. True digital book publishing, with its near-zero distribution costs, would overturn the culture in the same way the web has done with music and newspapers. In many respects the open-ended possibilities and great uncertainties of digital publishing remind me of the early days of the web. It feels like it is 1992 again.
What I need is a user group — a screen publisher’s user group. A peer community of like-minded newbies intent of figuring out how to do low-rent independent digital publishing. A place were we can share what tools we have discovered, and which techniques work. So I have started a Bay Area Screen Publishers User Group. The first meetup will take place in March 2011 in my studio in Pacifica. Sign up if you want to come.
I’ve also started a blog for Screen Publishing, especially for those outside of the bay area, where we’ll post what we learn. We’ll cover independent publishing of mostly bookish material to the new media of phone screens, tablet screens, laptop screens, desktop screens, and beyond. Anything that requires screening to absorb.
If you are part of this tribe — people of the screen — and would like to contribute, please join in.