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Not very long ago I had the pleasure of presenting at the Dahlonaga Book Festival. One of the panels featured myself, Catherine Coulter, and a bevy of other talented authors. We were asked to share our thoughts on the future of publishing. As none of us have crystal balls, we surmised to the very best of our abilities our thoughts on what the future of publishing might hold.

As I consider the advanced me of technologies in just the last few years, the hushed anticipation of the new Apple reader tablet, the Kindle’s and Sony Readers, the new Droid, Apple, Google phones and so on – to touch the hem of the future of publishing is beyond most of us. Except for this fact – writers have great imaginations. If we apply that portion of our minds to this riddle and not our logic over our last royalty statement, or the daily reports on how many bookstores are downsizing or closing, or how many mergers are now making publishing houses as confusing a conglomerate as our national government – then I think the pictures we’ll get are a little more true to the fullness of possibility.

What do I see? Technology becoming so integrated into our lives that reading something not presented through an electronic, super-sonic, magnetic, magical airwave Internet source will seem archaic to all but the antiquities collector. Oh, gasp if we must but just think how many years ago we didn’t even have cell phones or email and now how do we function in this business without them today?

Personally – I love hardback books of quality with paper that has been hand selected and where every element of creative design went into telling that story in the printing and publishing process. I understand how valuable this experience is. I understand the poetic romance of a great bookstore with a little bell that rings when I push open the door and lose myself in the most exotic, glamorous selections made by someone who owns that store and owns it because they are hooked beyond reason on this thing that love called books. But no matter how much I value these experiences, as I lay in front of the fire last night considering this blog and my words, I realized the truth as I know it, my concept of publishing, is already history.

I closed my eyes and thought about publishing ten years from now. Then twenty. Then fifty and beyond. I only made it as far as one hundred years. That’s when I realized that I am the antiquity. That someday, these precious hardback, signed first editions that I possess will be collectors items. (For this reason I am willing them to my grandchildren and buying as many as possible to add to their collection.) The second part of my understanding is that ultimately, it’s okay. The future comes toward us everyday bringing new challenges and answers. We are on the cusp of some of the most astounding developments and changes that writers or readers have ever seen.

Perhaps in the not too distant future, a great-grandchild of mine will open a book simply by pressing a button on their personal electronic device and in their very hands the 'page' of a book will appear – no Kindle or Apple reader needed. Perhaps – like pop-up books of old, portions of those books will become three dimensional and be acted out in 3d movie fashion right there on their desktop. Perhaps – the reader will wear virtual glasses to allow them to enter and move freely about in the world of the author’s creation. Who knows where the wings of time will ultimately take us.

All that aside, here is the most important thing to me. Even if I die with the knowledge that the books of our present are also a thing of our past, I will also know that writers will continue to be born into this world. The very art of storytelling will never die. It’s as much a part of our spiritual DNA as, “Let there be light.” We were created as part of a great, eternal story that is everlasting. And we were created to create. To tell the story of being human, of what it was like to live and laugh, to love and lose, to love again, to be born and die. In this great universe there cannot be a human race without writers and storytellers, the chroniclers of this wild adventure, this wonderful, bittersweet journey. What would be the point if someone didn't do the tellin'? From cave pictures to stories around the fire, those told on southern summer porches, and in the boardrooms up there in New York City - the tellin' continues. It always will.

The future of publishing? It lies just out out of my reach beyond my lifetime. But the future of storytelling? Oh, trust me - its in great hands.

(This blog was originally created for the southern author collective - A Good Blog is Hard To Find.)

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Comment by stephen dijoseph on January 14, 2010 at 11:53pm
I think we are at all times..creating...telling ourselves a ...story ... a 3d story if you will..perhaps even 4D when u mingle intuition ... an inspiring blog river...thanks!
Comment by wiffledust on January 14, 2010 at 9:56pm
such a good point, diane!
Comment by Diane Brown on January 14, 2010 at 8:30pm
Rembrandt, Beethoven, Shakespeare; all brilliant artists who have been followed by other brilliant artists. And the method by which they have been presented to the public has changed in a way that seems incomprehensible. If I were to fear anything it would be the demise of the artists and since the burning desire to create is eternal I think there is nothing to fear.
Comment by wiffledust on January 10, 2010 at 2:17pm
what i worry about, you guys, is the "less and less" of the face to face. bookstores are for browsing and dreaming and coffee'ing. it would be a horrible thing of a culture without any of this. i saw on sunday morning cbs today that HALF of independent bookstores have had to close. HALF! that is not good. yet, i feel there really IS a place for the kindle. i have a wall of books in my bedroom. i love them. however they all need to be on kindle, because i'm breathing dust and whatever else. so just like facebook where we are forming REAL we here....there HAS to be room for the hard copy, the live concert, the coffee between friends, and the big storybook. i'm fine with pride and prejudice on a kindle. it saves trees. but familiarizing children to reading.....? what do you think of that electronically? i am not sure. ...this is a GREAT topic!
Comment by River Jordan on January 10, 2010 at 1:02pm
Susie, I think more and more, Independent Bookstores will be the communication center of the literary gathering place. Somewhere that authors, readers, lovers of all stories, can gather together and discuss in person ftf (face to face) the magic of the written word. There will always be a need to join together in person, turn a page, hold a cup of warm, and share.
Comment by River Jordan on January 10, 2010 at 12:32pm
I know, I know. It really requires us to step up to the challenge in working with people who produce such things as Kindle and send in our opinions loud and strong. How do we move forward and preserve the best of the past at the same time. I don't own anything like a Kindle or such but - last night I had a bout of insomnia and if I had one - I would have been downloading books by the minute!
Comment by wiffledust on January 10, 2010 at 12:22pm
this is a terrific topic, and as always, perfectly written, river. i believe so strongly in the power of stories..and i agree that that will never leave. but what happens when our kids don't have books with illustrations and all that. sigh. i have mixed feelings about all this. hmmmm.....thanks for sharing this!

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