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Business of Writing, Publishing, The Writer's Life

Revealed! The True Future of Publishing and Writing

Since you really want to know, here, revealed for the first time, is the true future of publishing and writing.

If you want to know how I know, let’s just say I’ve considered evidence from events, articles and trends over many years as a writer, and applied them to a foundational knowledge of psychology, economics, politics and other academic disciplines. That’s right, I’m totally making this up.

So what do we writers face ten, twenty, fifty or more years in the future?

teletype3First, the mainstream publishing industry will virtually disappear. Their primary business is printed books, and by 2030, less than five percent of all books will be printed—the rest will be read electronically. The big guys will try to sell ebooks, but digital publishing eliminates monopolies of distribution, allowing companies and individuals to compete directly with those top-heavy monoliths and undercut their pricing. In other words, the big six and their ilk are cooked. Today’s top editors and executives will go into marketing jobs at mid-size manufacturing companies. Agents and lower level staff will wait tables at places like Fridays and Olive Garden while they try to break into community theater.

Ebooks will move exponentially towards interactivity. You won’t even need fingers. You will simply say, “Resume,” and the book will jump to where you left off last time. You will have a variety of choices regarding the plot, and will pick the one that interests you most—and if none do, you’ll be invited to dictate your own. (Like, “I’d rather that Bob didn’t die at the end…”) You will be able to have the text read to you, in the appropriate characters’ voices. (For example, “Let’s try Mary as a depressed, alcoholic housewife.”)[1]

Ebook fiction will no longer be written by a single author, but will be compiled by teams of “writers” (alias high school graduates who may have majored in English), each assigned to a particular story thread. A computer program will synthesize the writing to make it sound like it came from one person. In this way new titles will produced in a couple of days. The writers will be employees of large financial groups, will make minimum wage and will not be allowed to unionize. Nonfiction ebooks will be completely computer written, because by then they’re just a bunch of stats anyway. Poetry ebooks? Seriously? Gone by 2030.

Printed books, those that still exist that is, will go completely retro. Not just retro back to the 1990s, but like back to pre-technology literature days of, say, the 1960s and before. They’ll average 500 pages and be filled with deep characters and meaningful themes. The inside pages will be printed on old presses, and the covers will be turned out one by one, by craftspeople trained for decades in the arts of bookbinding, calligraphy and leather tooling. Writers who opt to serve the teeny tiny printed book world will spend years working on a novel, and won’t expect fame or wealth in return. The books these people produce will take their place beside live theater and classical music, and become part of the refuge of old, rich, generally sad people who lament the loss of art to corporate interests.

Some publishers will try to put interactivity into printed books (touch “Chapter 5” in the table of contents and the pages will automatically flip to the selected spot), but it will give readers nightmares and they’ll have to give it up.

By 2060, the printed book will be virtually extinct. A few will be displayed in museums and in pictures on the web. The internet, by then, will be set free from the constraints of the physical device. The necessary circuits will be implanted into each newborn child’s brain before the parents can take it home from the hospital. The government will beam ebooks and other carefully selected programming directly into our descendants. An old writer of printed novels will figure this out and write a book about it. She will be detained by authorities and never heard from again.

See? I’ve figured it all out.

[1] And by the way, as you read your ebook, it will spy on you and report any suspicious activity to the NSA.


About Joe Ponepinto

Co-publisher, with Kelly Davio, of Tahoma Literary Review. Author of "Curtain Calls," a featured Kirkus Review. Married to Dona. Dad to Henry, the coffee-drinkin' dog.


11 thoughts on “Revealed! The True Future of Publishing and Writing

  1. Dear Joe, What a dystopia! Are you sure this isn’t one of your more “out-there” stories, and you aren’t just speaking in your narrator’s voice to scare us into submission to some other plan? He!-he! Seriously, I really hope it’s not going to be this bad!

    Posted by shadowoperator | August 24, 2013, 1:09 PM
    • Actually the last couple of lines about implanting receptors in the brains of newborns, and the writer who was never heard from again got me thinking about a possible story. It’s really just a different take on the typical dystopia story, but might be worth a try.

      Posted by jpon | August 25, 2013, 12:38 AM
  2. Hm. Kind of a worst-case-scenario, stream-of-conciousness take on the future. There are threads of the “now” at the beginning. It will be interesting to see how they unravel or knit together. The most interesting question for me is “who will be the gatekeepers.”

    Posted by LCEaton | August 24, 2013, 1:30 PM
    • That’s the problem: there may not be any legitimate gatekeepers in the future of publishing, once self-publishing dominates.This is the downside of the democratization of publishing–everyone’s opinion matters, even if they’re not qualified to have one.

      Posted by jpon | August 25, 2013, 12:41 AM
  3. The reality is much more ominous and current. A monopoly on the means of communication, the squelching of descent, is necessary for all totalitarian regimes. Moving off line will be the way of creatives. Future books printed and passed in secret. The web become a sea of monitored digital bits in a constant state of censorship, disappearance and revision. All of course to keep us safe.

    Posted by joplingirl | August 24, 2013, 1:46 PM
    • That’s very prescient. Governments often seem to wind up in the hands of those who want to keep the population safe from themselves. Are we heading for a new dark ages, where creativity must hide from corporate imposed conformity? Some might say we’re already there.

      Posted by jpon | August 25, 2013, 12:45 AM
  4. An amazing post. Doubtless, the future will hold some version of these lamentable expectations.

    Posted by Nadia Ibrashi | August 24, 2013, 4:49 PM
  5. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry…………. kaye

    Posted by Kaye Linden | August 24, 2013, 4:56 PM
  6. Very entertaining post! Though I admire your knowledge of the industry, I hope your predictions are all wrong. I can’t imagine a world without print books. Love the 50s “futuristic” pic.

    Posted by Gwen Stephens | August 29, 2013, 10:14 PM

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