There’s no denying how technology is rapidly changing the world of publishing.
I still remember my first Amazon order like it was yesterday. It seemed incredible! It was so convenient and such good value.
Not to mention the first time I saw a Kindle. All those books on such a small device. Plus the incredible battery life.
But is it all positive?
As much as we love the convenience of Amazon, including its Prime service and Kindle Direct Publishing opportunities, there are stressed out delivery drivers and warehouse workers who would tell a different tale.
For every writer who can look up any fact under the sun with a few taps of their smartphone screen, there is a teacher complaining that their students no longer know how to spell words unaided.
So what’s the truth? Is technology in publishing good or bad?
Of course, the truth is nuanced. A grey area, dependent on one’s perspective.
Join me as I explore the pros and cons of different aspects of publishing technology.
Ease of Access to Publishing
Since its earliest days, publishing has been a guarded industry that was hard to access.
In the old days, countless aspiring authors had desk draws full of manuscripts.
For their work to see the light of day, it had to pass through the hands of literary agents, before then being approved by a famous publishing house.
These days, absolutely anyone can publish a book.
So what are the pros and cons of the newly accessible publishing landscape?
Technology reducing the barriers of entry to publishing definitely has a lot of positive aspects. These include:
- No need for gatekeepers to deny creative freedom. In the old days, authors had to write their work in a way which would please the tastemakers. These days, writers have the liberty of sharing their true, unadulterated creative vision.
- A wider range of genre and style. Due to the financial risk publishing houses took on their shoulders in the past, books with clear commercial potential tended to be favored. Nowadays, there are far more types of genre fiction and nonfiction niche publications being published.
- A greater voice for minorities. The ease of access to publishing has been a golden lifeline for disabled, ethnic minority and other authors who previously found it difficult to burst into the guarded literary bubble.
There is no denying that ease of access to publishing has had some undoubted advantages for both authors and readers alike.
It might seem strange to suggest that greater access to publishing has its downsides. After all, the more the merrier, right?
Well, not always. Depending on your perspective, you might consider any of the following to be a drawback to ease of access to publishing facilitated by technology:
- Quality control. I won’t sugarcoat it. There are some shockingly bad books out there. Books which don’t appear to have been proofread, let alone edited. Books with covers that are physically painful to look at. These are only possible due to the new technology enabled publishing context.
- Reader fatigue. The sheer array of titles on offer has made it harder for readers to know what is worthy of their attention. People only have finite amounts of time and money to spend on books. The glut of new releases makes it tricky for any given book to catch the public’s eye.
- Rushed authors. For many authors, the only way to sustain a reasonable income from their publishing is to release books at a prolific rate. Many authors feel that they would be able to release better work if they had a bit more breathing room between titles.
On balance, it’s hard to argue that greater access to publishing is a negative thing. It’s clear that it does have its drawbacks, however.
Specialist Publishing Software
Along with greater ease of access to the world of publishing comes a wide range of software. Writing, editing, formatting – if you can think of it, there’s probably an app for that.
So how does such software help and hurt the publishing world?
There are many useful things that publishing software brings to the table. These include:
- Software designed with the needs of authors specifically in mind. From super in-depth powerhouse writing software such as Scrivener, to niche offerings created by authors, such as YWriter, there are a wide range of apps intended to give writers exactly what they’re looking for.
- Catches glaring errors. While a piece of software can never replace a human editor (at least not yet!), they have a valuable role to play. A tool such as Grammarly or Hemingway is able to catch an author’s mistakes and tighten up their style.
- Can save money. Using a tool to format your book to meet the requirements of different sales platforms can save authors money as there is no need to pay a freelancer to carry out this task.
I’m sure you’ll have your own examples of publishing software that has helped with your own author career.
New technology isn’t always met with a great response. See the Luddites, for example! So what are the drawbacks of software intended solely for publishers?
- It isn’t needed. If the greatest writers throughout history managed with a typewriter (Ernest Hemingway) or even a quill (William Shakespeare). Heck, if you’ve seen George R.R Martin’s setup, you’ll know this is true even now. While publishing software can be useful, authors should avoid falling into the trap of thinking they need it.
- It can erode a writer’s own skillset. I’ll hold my hand up and admit I’m a little guilty of this. There are some words I don’t instinctively recall the spelling for due to the fact that I’m so used to the spellchecker catching my mistakes for me.
- Authors can fall victim to marketing scams. As many pieces of publishing software are sold by affiliate marketers, the claims made about them often exceed their true potential. This can leave writers disheartened and out of pocket.
Technology should be seen as a helpful luxury, but by no means a must-have essential. Great work can be, and is, done without it.
It’s easier than ever to communicate with almost anyone alive.
Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and countless others, everyone appears to be in reach. Even the leader of the free world is a prolific tweeter (although perhaps a few folks wish he wasn’t!).
So how does this brave new world of communication impact authors?
There are many plus points for better and faster communication for authors. These include:
- Easier to market one’s work. Thanks to the potential offered by Amazon Advertising and Facebook Advertising, it’s possible to target and connect with ideal readers like never before.
- Author networking. Participating in author groups, providing value to a writing community, getting blurbs for your next book – technology has made this all easier than it ever has been.
- Readers can connect with authors. One of the quickest ways to turn readers into fans is through relationship building. Contact forms on author websites and mailing list signups are just two of the ways this can occur.
Of course, communication isn’t all good. So what are some of the negatives of technology enabled communication that authors should be aware of?
- Risk of losing the work/life balance. When we are reachable by computer, tablet, smartphone, even our watches in some cases, there is a very real danger that we never switch off. It’s important to set communication boundaries as authors to avoid burnout and maintain our creative energy.
- Entitlement. Some readers/fans get very, very nasty. Trolling can get incredibly unpleasant and authors have been subjective to some truly nasty comments. It’s essential to have a thick skin these days.
- Breadth over depth. While it’s possible to communicate with basically everyone out there, it doesn’t mean the quality of the conversation is improving. Often, we end up having shallower conversations with a larger number of people. Deep, focused communication is rarer than it used to be.
While technology has made communication for authors easier than ever, it has also presented a range of potentially harmful side-effects that should be mitigated.
Technology in Publishing – Final Thoughts
Thanks for reading my musings on the effect technology has had on the publishing landscape.
I’d like to leave you with a few questions, which it would mean the world to me if you took the time to answer in the comments:
- Do you see ease of access to publishing as good or bad on balance? What’s the best example you have for each perspective?
- What’s your favorite piece of publishing technology out there? What’s the worst example you’ve seen?
- Do you make the most of communication opportunities enabled by technology? Do you find it annoying and avoid it if possible?
Let’s continue the debate in the comments section, I’ll see you there.
I’m 34 years old and an 11 year veteran of the US Navy. I was also a military kid and so have lived in all corners of the globe. But that’s not what defines me. After my family, my real passion is books, but more specifically the new world of Kindle e-books. I’ve made a pretty decent side income out of them.
You could say ‘I have a certain set of skills’?
If I had to describe myself, I would start by saying I’m a husband and a father first and foremost. But when I am not playing dress up or chasing the Bogey Man out of the closet, I am an online entrepreneur specializing in Kindle e-book marketing.