Since Electric Bookshop started in 2010, our mission to explore the development of the written word has grown all the more exciting. We will shortly be launching a new events series with the support of Creative Scotland, in new places and still exploring new ideas. Of which there are no shortage. Sign up to our newsletter for event news.
So where are we now?
Publishers are investing more and more in innovative publishing and in innovative ways of reaching their readers. Publishing has changed dramatically over the past four years, since Electric Bookshop began with our inaugural guests, Sophie Rochester, director of then-fledgling The Literary Platform (who have since entered the Fortuna 50 list as one of the UK’s fastest-growing women-led businesses) and McSweeney’s Eli Horowitz (at the time denied all knowledge of Kindle Singles) who recently released a digitally daring interactive sci-fi novel. With new markets of consumption emerging, as well as new modes and channels of publishing, publishers have adapted in a variety of ways, corralling new skills and wrangling new collaborations with technologists. In a few short years since hard questions were being asked about the future role of publishers, their average working day might see them editing titles for an online-only imprint, organising a twitter Q & A with their most popular author, crowd-sourcing their latest cover designs online and signing a blogger for a 3 book deal. Digital is no longer simply a marketing channel, and publishers are embracing experimentation and listening to their readers like never before. Self-publishing is no longer considered ‘vanity publishing’ and there are a variety of routes to publication for writers, as well as a democratisation of platforms for writers to have their work read.
The physical experience of reading is shifting too, the materiality of books is simultaneously receding and resurging, as the unrealised predictions of doom for the printed book prompted a wave of pre-emptive nostalgia and a return to publishing aesthetics that mirror our love of the best of book design, the feel, smell and weight of the physical tome.
Games and literature have moved closer together, both through the evolution of interactive narratives in literature and through the increasing sophistication of game narratives and the elevation of game writing to answer the calls of discerning players who want to emotionally engage with game characters, and enter immersive worlds, with compelling plotlines. Game development is reaching into new territories of experience, culture and storytelling, game audiences are growing and diversifying in tastes. They are demanding the same cultural respect as literature and visual art, encouraging us to a new understanding of what art can be.
Newspapers, journalism, the daily written news of the world is shifting in a way that is hard to gauge, grand notions such as citizen journalism, a 24 global news cycle and constant content turnover sit alongside the visible struggles of newspapers to adapt, monetise, survive, of journalists to find their place in a squeezed marketplace, and of readers to navigate to trustworthy voices and make consumer choices whilst remaining aware that what they read now will inform what is written in the future.
Why does this matter?
The book is arguably the most important cultural artifact in human history, in itself the product of many technologies. The shifts in how we consume stories and information, the introduction of new technologies and modes of distribution could have profound cultural impacts on books and on wider society. From apps for toddlers to digital archiving for researchers, the creation and consumption of words is part of an experience that is meaningful to us all.
The democratisation of information via the internet, the psychological impact of screen-reading vs page-reading, the digital inequality that already means that internet access is an indicator of social class and life chances are of crucial interest to we humans. How could the availability of words, stories, information, education and ideas change our lives?
Readership has changed enormously and continues to change. The modes by which people experience stories are evolving and multiplying, there is a democratisation of content and a closure of the gap between readers and writers. More and more, we understand the effects of writing on our brains and bodies, through new technologies which read our emotional, physical and intellectual responses to narratives. Reading is not only an experience that moves and informs us, but benefits our wellbeing and life chances in myriad ways that we are only just beginning to discover.
Libraries, our book-palaces, are moving simultaneously away from and towards materialism, investing in the future to provide everything from ebook borrowing to coding classes, digital bookshelves and toyboxes. And yet a growing networks of maker libraries, and the physical, community space to access digital services, to host digital learners, makes the physical presence of libraries increasingly important.
So what are we doing?
We will shortly be announcing a new event series to spark conversation and debate, to inform and inspire and to spark new collaborations and areas of innovation. At Electric Bookshop events there is always time to meet and mingle socially, with others who also like to flex their grey matter.
Following the themes of Press and Journalism, Games, The Material World of Books, Readership and Libraries we will showcase innovative ideas and explore brave new worlds of experience.
Hear first about our events programme- Join our mailing list by clicking here.