Publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin posted some thoughts on “What it will mean when the ebook comes first”—i.e., before the printed version. Some of these wrinkles I’d thought of, and some are making me think now:
1. “Space” will no longer be scarce. That means that nothing of value should be discarded; the question becomes how to best employ any thoughts, writing, or images, not whether to include them. (Warning of a likely unintended consequence: putting mediocre material in the finished product can become a temptation and that does not achieve desired effects.)Thanks to PhiloBiblos for the tip.
2. Background material of any kind will become useful. For fiction, that might mean more in-depth character descriptions or “biographies”. For non-fiction, that might mean source material.
3. Multiple media are desireable. Anything that is relevant to the book in video or audio form or art of any kind should be included. . . .
4. Linking is essential. The author should be recording deeplink information for every useful resource tapped during the book’s creation.
5. New editorial decisions abound. Should the reader be given the option to turn links off (to avoid the distractions)? Does it “work” if linked or multiple-media elements become essential to the narrative of the book? And, if that becomes the case, what are the work-arounds for the static print edition? Should “summary” material be added, such as a precis of every chapter than can be a substitute for reading the whole chapter? . . .
6. How should all of this complexity flow? Books are pretty straightforward: you start at the beginning and turn pages until you get to the end. But ebooks can allow different sequencing if that becomes useful. Can we have beginner, intermediary, and expert material all in one ebook that “selects” what you see by what you tell the book you are?
7. When is the book “finished”? An ebook that is continually being enhanced and updated by the author, perhaps even by the addition of relevant blog posts (to imagine a situation which would be very easy to execute) is a great antidote to digital piracy. But it would surely separate the ebook from the print, which couldn’t keep up with that kind of change.