Whether that quote is attributed to François de La Rochefoucauld (1600s) or Heraclitus of Ephesus (500-400 BC), it doesn’t make it any less true.
And it’s never been more true than now. Wait…does that even make sense?
What I mean to say is, the statement is true in today’s world of media and publishing. Authors, musicians, and filmmakers have been struggling to keep up in today’s new reality of digital downloads, ebooks, iPods, Kindles, streaming, digital audio books, etc.
As a TV junkie, I’m a huge Netflix, Prime, and Hulu fan. I love to “binge watch” old sci-fi or BBC series. In many cases, they’re new to me. Firefly, Stargate, Atlantis, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Robin Hood (BBC), Doc Martin, etc. We cancelled our cable years ago. Now, we barely ever watch broadcast TV. In fact, just yesterday we were trying to figure out what time the new A.D. The Bible Continues series would air, and my husband said, “There’s no TV guide in the paper anymore.” We had to Google it to find out the air time, and it felt strange to watch something with commercial breaks.
Binge-watching has changed the way I view television and movies. Is it changing the way TV is produced? Probably. I hear talk of straight-to-Netflix series, but I’ve yet to watch any. Why? There’s so much good OLD stuff out there.
The same is true in the writing world. I’ve heard editors say, “The backlist is the new front list.” Writers are releasing their old out-of-print titles as ebooks, and they’re being listed on Amazon together with all the new titles. For most readers, there’s no difference between a book released 10 years ago and one released last week. When someone discovers a new favorite writer, they often “binge-read,” snapping up all the ebook titles by the same person. That’s great news to authors with a significant backlist. Not so good for those of us who are new to publishing.
I think the significance of this phenomenon hit me when someone said, “Oh, your book is part of a series? I’ll wait until they’re all out and then read them together. I hate waiting a year for the next book.”
It’s a little disturbing to an author that although it takes anywhere from 4 months to a year to write a new book (could be much more or less, depending on the writer), readers can consume them like potato chips. You can’t just read one–you must read them all. Is that any different than how I watch old TV series? Not really. One of my favorite sci-fi shows had a record ten seasons. I watched them all in less than a year. Would I have hung in for ten years watching it on broadcast television? Maybe, maybe not.
Is this changing the way writers produce books? Probably. Many authors try to put out 3-4 books or more a year. I hear of authors experimenting with writing books in a more serial fashion and then releasing them all together. There’s a lot of experimentation going on, particularly in indie circles. It can be discouraging to those of us who went into the business dreaming of the traditional model. Will we be forced to churn out books quickly in order to feed the hungry beast who wants mass quantity?
That’s the point in my rant where my voice trails off.
The hungry beast. You mean the readers? Readers are clamoring for more and more, faster and faster. And this is a problem? People are READING. Are they reading more or less than they did before the digital switchover? I’ve read articles that argue both ways. I don’t have an answer. Even if people are spending more time on the internet instead of sticking their noses in paper books–what are they doing there? Sure, some are watching video or playing games on FB, but many others are reading.Ebooks, articles, blogs–it’s still reading, isn’t it?
There’s another adage that jumps to my mind: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
What hasn’t changed?
- People are still reading.
- They’re still searching for truth and hope. Perhaps more than ever.
- “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. ” (Hebrews 13:8).
One other thing hasn’t changed. The Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
If you’ve been called to writing–and yes, I believe it’s a calling–do you get to opt out just because the publishing world is changing? Our commission hasn’t changed. Only our method of delivery has.
How are you going to face this new future? It might be time for a new approach. How can your writing help people in this new reality? How can you reach them? How can you offer hope? What audience does God want you to reach? These are the important questions we should all be asking.
So, how are you feeling about the new world of publishing? Is it discouraging or exciting? What do you think the world of Christian media look like in ten years. Twenty years?