There’s no denying it. After years of false starts and hyperbole, the advent of digital is finally making an impact on the book industry and it’s doing so in a fundamental way. Everyone—from authors to booksellers—faces exciting challenges and giddying uncertainty as traditional roles and processes are either supplanted or radically reimagined. But in the rush of discussion (mostly online of course) around containers, context, formats, and clouds, one important party is frequently forgotten. They’re out there all the time in a the dusty shelves at the back of the library, perhaps lying in bed late at night, or even sitting on a train flicking through pages on a smartphone. There are already millions of them and more are being created all the time. You might even be one yourself.
They’re called readers. Egads!
Seriously though, how is the culture of readers—and reading itself—changing in an environment where print is only one of many options for accessing texts?
It’s true that there are many more readers in the world today than ever before. But reading is already in the process of changing. It’s becoming more active.
The new landscape of publishing has been described as ’disintermediated‘, in other words authors no longer need publishers or other intermediaries to reach readers. In one sense this is true. Direct access to readers via free and open publishing platforms is now widely available to authors. What’s interesting is that these same tools are equally available to readers. Using these tools, readers can engage not only with authors and content, but also with each other. And in doing so, they are discovering their power.
Readers can already choose the format and container of their texts. Though this is not universal, most titles today available in print are also available in a variety of ereader formats. But it’s not inconceivable that readers as a group will soon have more power than ever to influence how texts are produced and made available, how much they will cost, what becomes successful, and even what is ‘published’ in the first place.
With this in mind, if:book Australia has put together a one-day public symposium called, funnily enough, The Reader, to be held at the State Library of Queensland on 28th April.
The various presentations and panels throughout the day will focus on topics such as access and accessibility, reading as a social activity, nurturing future readers, and the changing experience of reading.
What are the differences between reading fixed formats and dynamic ‘content’ and what does this mean for both storytelling and reading?
How might a reader reasonably use a given text? Is it reasonable for a reader to change reading devices without having to re-purchase their books?
When you buy a book, regardless of its format, do you really ‘own’ it? If you don’t, then who does?
Featuring speakers from backgrounds in writing, publishing, technology, bookselling, libraries and reading itself, The Reader will explore the changing culture that surrounds the book’s most important asset.
For more information on The Reader Symposium or to purchase tickets, head to the if:book website at futureofthebook.org.au.