I started my publishing career in the print era. When I edited Berserkrgangr Magazine, paste-up was literal, done with actual scissors. At that time, the major technical limits to what I could publish were that color was too expensive, on the type of press I used black and white illustrations had to be actually black and white, not gray scale, and every added 4 pages added expense (because 4 numbered pages fit on one piece of 11” x 17” paper in a full format magazine).
Now I’m publishing the Time Yarns anthologies, which are eBooks, and the kinds of things I can put in what I publish has expanded extraordinarily. The anthologies have embedded color art, which was something I could only salivate over in the print era, and it doesn’t cost any more to publish an addition 3,000 word story. There are still technical limits, though, mostly related to file size.
The anthologies are coming out in 2012, but I’m publishing my own novel Punch, which is also set in the Time Yarns Universe, this year. Publishing Punch has shown me exactly where the envelope I want to push is. I’m publishing Punch on the Amazon Digital Text Platform, the Barnes & Noble PubIt! system, and Smashwords. Punch is intended to be a transmedia experience, and I’m cramming as many pictures in the Punch books as I can without tripping up on the PubIt! system’s memory limits, because I really want to have Punch be the same across all platforms, so I have to design to the most limiting one. There are two major decisions about Punch that I’ve made because of the memory limits. Firstly, when I put in a video, I don’t embed it into the text, I put in a hyper-link. This is not how I’d prefer to have it, but embedding long videos runs headlong into the memory limits. Even Amazon’s system has memory limits, though, they are just bigger than PubIt!’s. The most important decision the memory limits have caused is that I’m publishing Punch as a serial, in a total of 7 books. I could not possibly fit all the transmedia elements I want into Punch if I published it all in one file. If I tried to publish Punch as all one book, I’d have to take almost everything else out except the actual text of the book. And that would be just like a print edition except on your phone. eBooks should be better than print books; they have the capability of blurring the lines between what’s a book and what’s a film, music video, or graphic novel. eBooks should be giving us more, just like DVD Extras give us more than just the film.
EBook publishing hosts sites like Amazon have already brought about one revolution in publishing. Like the revolution in TV caused by the invention of cable, it’s a revolution brought about by a new technology that enabled niche programming to splinter the mass audience, thus decreasing the market share of the big 3 TV networks and the big 7 mass market publishers and opening up opportunities for small businesses. The ebook revolution was even more radical than the cable revolution, though, because in the cable market, very few individuals can own their own channels (OWN is the Oprah Winfrey Network— but not everybody is Oprah.) eBook hosts allow anyone to become their own publishing imprint, even people who are flat broke, and that has opened the publishing world to new voices.
But there is another revolution coming: the transmedia revolution. In the future, when all media are published on the same electronic platform, and the file size limit has been conquered, what sort of creator you are won’t be determined by whether you create your works on cellulose, celluloid, canvas, or tape. Writer / artist / filmmaker / designer will be obsolete categories. Everyone will simply be a creator.
Guest post by Erin Lale