Dirty Fingers and Dry Lips — No More!

There’s no end to the handwringing over the state/future/pulse of the print industries.

From book to magazine publishers, then over to newspapers and billboards, “woe is us” has become a well-played song with repetitive lyrics.

A recent (Fall 2015) issue of BookBusiness offers a symposium of short essays: “Big (and Small) Ideas Changing the Book Industry.”

No, not a drinking party, as the term (symposium) originally meant; a collection of stories on the same subject. Kind of a drinking party, in other words.

One, written by Liisa McCloy-Kelley of Penguin Random House, urges that publishers “Be Inspired by Online Media When Designing Digital Books.”

Digital, of course, is where things are at. As every schoolboy knows.

Helpfully, she notes: “What readers, authors, publishers, and retailers often forget is that the best formatting for digital doesn’t have to be a mirror of the print edition – and often offers a better reading experience if it is not.”

The essay makes useful, intuitively appealing arguments about design for digital creation and consumption.

Authors, as much as designers, would do well to heed the advice.

What happens when an author’s work is born or migrates to digital?

Writers are accustomed to composing following the usual format: introduction, body, conclusion.

But in the digital world, where publishers have discovered their latent aptitude for delicatessen ownership, slicing and dicing are today more the name of the game than is selling the entire turkey roll as a single unit.

Take a book, sell it by the chapter, and give prospective readers free stuff: the index, for instance, or the table of contents, bibliography or the introductory chapter.

Because, you see, the conventional wisdom is that digital readership is more like dim sum than it is a four-course meal.

Sample. Select. Nibble. Nosh.

Now what does all this mean to authors? If nothing else, that your readers may not begin at the beginning and, in fact, they may never read the entire work. Precious though each word might be.

How does one compose and construct such a narrative?

And what does all of this mean for we readers?

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