Holistic Options for Stressed-Out Digiguys and Digigals
If one assesses the most successful endeavors of the last twenty years, a shining beacon of reality sets in. Projects and businesses that have been most popular have had to do with the relief of stress. Understand, please, that I’m not talking about flipping houses on the real estate market or making a bundle on Wall Street. I’m talking about the world of the digital guy and digital gal; the world that sinks or swims based on how well it can create ideas that save humans time and effort.
One of the worst time wasters was not being able to find the right product you were looking for in the real world. Google was created out of that need to give people less stress when they wanted to buy something they wanted to find quickly and easily. The task is made easy because of the simple interface and the connection of the billions of computer networks that were waiting for those Google spiders to do their mathematical thing, bringing law and order to the human shopping experience.
Another big time waster was solved with two companies called Airbnb and Uber. Find a place to stay, find a way to get there, all provided through uncomplicated digital applications that harness the same power given to us humans by the folks at Google.
Of course, as a mobile publisher, I want to discuss another big stress bump in the road for those of us literate folks who want to provide the easiest way for writers and readers to get together and do their “thing.” Just as humans want to get places to do things, they also want to get places to read about things that interest them. Therefore, they want an easy way to do that and they also want to be able to harness the same digital power brought to us by the geniuses who have provided us with mobile devices.
More people are reading on their mobile devices than ever before. Why? For the same reason they’re turning to Google, Airbnb and Uber: it’s more convenient, they don’t stress out, and they can save money. Therefore, as a former professor who worked at Caltech, I wasn’t a monkey’s uncle after I saw the “writing on the tablet, iPad and smart phone.” I knew I needed to provide readers and writers with a new way to get together using mobile devices to read their stuff on, and perhaps showing them a few more goodies they could accomplish while they were inside this new phenomenon of the wandering digiguys and digigals.
Five Degrees of Reader Separation
I saw that the biggest stress on readers was the fact they were getting “drawn and quartered” by the big publishing establishment that was still running on fumes of the Twentieth Century model of WE ARE THE BASTION OF WHAT IS POPULAR, WHAT IS ARTISTIC, WHAT IS LITERARY, AND—MOST OF ALL—WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ.
However, along came the independent publishers from around the world, and they quietly began doing what nobody except places like Amazon thought could be done: they were creating the reading materials that humans enjoyed reading, and, lo and behold, these digital readers only cared about the content they were reading and not about the dictates of big publishing.
We are now at a crossroad. The independents, like my company, are going in one direction, and the big publishers, for the most part, are going in another. They are going in different directions, I contend, because of one great dividing line: the reader. The big publishers are sticking to their flaming guns and insisting they can still “sell folks the sizzle” by slick marketing, great covers and phony reviews all over hell and creation. I know, I can hear the rebuttals already. The reviews aren’t “phony.” They come from the greatest reading minds in America! The artistry is superb, the marketing is fantastic and done with talent! There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but I would contend that “great literature” and “what the reader wants” are taking a back seat to profit motive. One need only look at the most recent marketing of the early rough draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, to see what I mean. It was sold as a sequel to Ms. Lee’s great novel, and the money came rolling in. My contention is that independents understand what the big publishers often don’t get: the digital universe, where the smart and savvy digiguys and digigals hang out, never forgets when they get conned.
Independents like I am grew-up on the Internet and cut our literary teeth on digital books. We knew that if you put something out there that the readers want, you didn’t need to spend an “arm and a leg” to be successful. I give the example of digiguys like author Hugh Howey. He just crafted a great story (not novel, mind you), put it up on Amazon (when it wasn’t the anti-indie business it is today), and he was soon off to the races in popularity. The audience, his readers, wanted more and the digital universe’s gods allowed Mr. Howey the means to give it to them.
My take-away from this indie literary movement, if you want to call it that, is that good indie authors know how to reach their audience, and when they get out there with them, they know how to keep them. The magic ingredient is the same as the big publishers. Provide content that interests your readership. The difference, however, is that while the big publishers rely on what I like to call, for want of a better term, “marketing tricks,” indie authors always have to give the reader what he or she wants. Why? Because Indies work less on the speculative power of selling the sizzle, and more on the WYSIWYG honesty of the digital universe.
Long story short, if today’s reader gets screwed over by big publishing, he may not come back to that specific publisher ever again. Whereas, if a reader gets screwed over by a lousy story from an indie, that reader may return because the indie author lives and dies by the personal relationship he or she must hone with his audience in order to keep the faith going between author and reader. It’s one thing for Mr. Howey to turn out a single dud story or novel, it’s another thing entirely for a big publisher like Harper to sell a rough draft as if it were a sequel to one of the most talked-about, taught and enjoyed novels in the history of American literature. Big publishers haven’t learned the lesson of the digital world: social marketing is king, and instant karma can kill on the Internet.
All of this preface is leading me somewhere, so please hang on. I want to briefly go over what I believe will be the immediate future of writing and reading, and it entails that stress relieving ingredient I spoke of way back in the first paragraph. The following are the five ways that reading on digital mobile devices will change the reading experience and the way authors and readers will interact in the coming years. The fact of the matter is, if all goes according to these five ingredients in my recipe, there may be a seismic shift in the use of technology toward better communication and thus less stress because of those marketing tricks I spoke about that are used by unscrupulous publishers.
The Digiguy and Digigal Recipe for Reading Pleasure
1. Mobile device users use apps to get what I like to call “niche information and entertainment.” Therefore, in the near future, publishers will be using apps to not only sell their books, but they will also use them as a way to reach niche audiences. For example, with our 3-in-1 Embellisher ™ Publishing, Reading and Marketing App, a guy like Hugh Howey (theoretically) wouldn’t have to have any middlemen to take a hunk out of his paycheck because all of his work could be instantly published inside his app and delivered instantly to his readership without the hassle (meaning stress) of searching, entering stuff, moving in and out of devices, that goes along with the present-day process of reading digital information inside a book.
2. Because mobile devices like tablets, iPads and smart phones all have touch screens and multimedia capabilities, readers will also be expecting creators to utilize that technology in creative new ways. Actually, it may not be creative in the sense that all writing and creating digitally is simply the use of the available processors out there, but let’s just say that the so-called “enhanced eBook” will begin to play a much more vital role in the reader’s experience. It’s the wedding of past technology (movie, music, digital animation, etc.) that has been predicted for many years but has not come to full realization because the artists haven’t had the right tools to create the new experiences. Now that apps can provide all these creative tools according to the needs of the creators, the readers will be the first ones to enjoy this new wedding in the best way possible. Again, no middlemen needed to mess-up the relationship of this beautiful wedding between author and reader.
3. Each author can become “an island unto him or herself” because an ePub3 Creator Studio, a Mobile Author and Reader Communicator, and a Mobile Marketing bonanza will be available for those hard-working (and we are hard workers!) authors who want to make a mark with their niche audiences. This author will become, in practice, an instant publisher who can use all the tools that the big publishers use, and, more importantly, once a following is established, this author can keep his audience captive inside his creative lair. Apps that were once seen as a threat to creativity and publication will now turn into independent communication havens for both author and reader.
4. Publication will become a matter of using an app to reach the established audience and sending it out to them. This has, of course, always existed in the field of online learning, where I taught for many years. However, with this new publishing and reading paradigm, the independent teacher will become much more powerful and able to create with more innovation and less censorship from administration and from those powerhouse academic publishers and education management software “experts.” Of course, the rules will have to be followed concerning the free and open expression of all political, social and (if appropriate) religious subject matter, but I sincerely believe that returning the education experience back to the teacher and the student will prove to be a much more manageable and communication-intensive experience. My contention is that stress in the classroom comes about when there are more “cooks in the kitchen” spoiling the broth of interesting and innovative curricula. Costs of textbooks will also dive appreciably if this comes about (a good thing for poor students and their expenses).
5. Finally, because each author can virtually write and market to his reader in a highly individualized way, the use of “marketing tricks” will become a thing of the past. At Caltech, we always knew that the main advancement of the Digital Age was the fact that it was a completely Democratic process. Readers saw what they were going to read and they could decide, in the first place, whether it was worth reading or not. Amazon made a mint out of this fact, but now they’ve turned on the author that feeds them, and this will eventually spell their doom in the publishing world of the near future. The direct communication between author and reader has always existed—even when the titans ruled the roost—and it will remain the same. However, with the new mobile digital reading experience, the reader can instantly “talk back” to his or her author, and the author can react, respond and (yes!) revise to create a better product. This, in the final analysis, is the goal of all the billionaire companies that wanted to just find a way to make life a bit simpler and less strenuous for their clients.
So, watch out for the new players in the coming reading switch from computers and paper to mobile devices. They will be catering to the individual readers out there who already know how to stay with a good thing, and they will lose you in a heartbeat if you turn out to be a trickster who just wants their money and doesn’t want to give them what they want. The digital universe has always been and always will be a harsh mistress. And forever may her flag wave for Independent authors everywhere!