Dos and Dont’s and Guide for Publishing Books and Ebooks: Solutions and Options


I was searching for book publishing solutions and after considerable research and development, I would offer the following link to my personal “Dos and Dont’s for Publishing and Publishing Guide for Authors and Creatives”.

Many are evolving as this is being written, with alot of competitors constantly launching new platforms and services. These may be helpful to avoid mistakes, lend projects some “secrets for success’ and discuss fundelemental steps and tools for marketing books and ebooks.

Looking forward, the future of publishing is going to be potentially confusing for the unitiated, particularily the e-publishing world. One way to brave this new future is to consider the dynamics of the entire development, design, distribution, promotion and marketing pipeline.


The Way the Trees Are: Cabin #1


Five years from now, when the loons start to sing and the weather heats up,  we’ll want to read a real book or 2 up in Cabin #1, at the end of the path, deep in the woods where solitude reigns and cellphones don’t work. We will take  backroads up to the North Country,  avoiding EZPass scanners on I95, shutting off or leaving home any GPS enabled clothing, accessories like glasses, jewelry, or other devices. We’ll stop at non-chain eateries along the way, to avoid security cameras and ubiquitous computing opportunities at all the hot spots along the route, where what used to be furniture (tabletops, backs of seat cushions, menus, bathroom wall fixtures) now take the place of the devices we tote around today — PDAs and cellphones. Your retina scan, your thumb print, will let you log in from virtually anywhere (except Cabin #1!) . Even your clothing will be “hot!” Gone will be the days of toting around a plastic rectangle, keeping it charged, thumbing messages into or buying little custom color covers to protect it.  XML will rule; text will flow freely. You will be able to access your online avatar(s)  (you may assume multiple identities!) from anywhere, without needing to remember usernames and pwds because your retina/fingerprint/dna “me-suite” will take care of that customer ID you, and you will be able to get news, content, messages, pix, tunes, books  — hey, it’s all one! — from anywhere at any time. Take off your T-shirt, shake it to stiffen up the interface, and bingo, you’ve got a screen to stare at and live in, no matter where you are. When devices are gone, no longer will you have to wrestle with these costly “plans” from for-profit telcos to maintain your online presence, getting locked into years-long licenses of paying exorbitant fees for insubstantial digital “products” like # of text messages.  You will be required by the government to be online all the time, and will get fined and possibly jailed  if you are not online. Universal health care will mean that your biometrics will need to get uploaded regularly, or you will not be covered if you need medical attention.

So this trip to Cabin #1 for the purposes of reading a paper book, the old kind of reading where the type is sunk into the beautiful cotton paper of the page,  may be kind of radical act, kind of like the end of “Fahrenheit 451,” where the book lovers amble among the trees reciting the book they each memorized, after all the books have been destroyed. But remember, if you can get there, and avoid all the satellite- and tower- enabled scanners and ubiquitous readers along the way, there will be a shelf of good books, some clean water to drink, a rocking chair, and an unlimited vista of night stars waiting for you!

Pay the Reader


Online publishers have been struggling to modify for the online media the product-based,  reader-paid business models. This recompense model needs to be flipped on its head, so that humans are paid to think out loud, in the secure, trusted, selected, and recorded environment  of their choosing, either anonymously or for attribution (different pay scales for each). Publishers will license “cogniright” instead of copyright, in this instance, and cognactivity would include such online actions as:

  • generating original prose or commentary
  • footnoting: linking to related sites or publications to buttress one’s original thoughts
  • opinionating: endorsing or damning other publications
  • living out loud: publishing one’s online thought pat

This reader-paid model might best be first implemented in medical publishing, as the life and death impetus has a way of sharpening the business need. And truth and timeliness in publication is critical. Also, in STM or Tech publishing, we frequently see heuristic cycles  of defined content domains where authors who are also readers who are also authors. What’s missing is the business model that compensates readers (and editors) specifically for their online editorial and publishing duties. And when I say compensate I don’t mean only a one-time hourly or retainer fee, but an ongoing residual for contributing to and assuming responsibility for the validity of online content.


Paper vs. Digital


I say unfortunatly since i have always been in love with the published words and the smell of books.

digital reading seems to be the future, but ademant paper loving readers should fight or at least resist the battle to go with papers

Calling All Blue Pencil Dinosaurs!


To understand what will become of editors in the digital future, we need to understand editors’ roles int he context of a traditional publishing house. I use a trade publishing house as an example, where, back in the 1970s when I started out at Little, Brown and Co.,  “editors” had the following roles:

  • Acquisitions Editor — Selects the one book manuscript from the many, publishes a list of authors every year
  • Substantive Editor — Work closely with the Author to realize the book’s potential, focusing on the Big Ideas in the book
  • Manuscript or Line Editor — Pay close attention to the prose, help the author finalize the manuscript on a line-by-line basis
  • Copy Editor — Fine tune the prose, focusing on grammar, consistency, prose, and integrating all the parts (captions, index, etc.)

Working with such editors is how authors like Norman Mailer, J. D. Salinger, Gore Vidal, William Manchester for published at Little, Brown. Editing was a process of refinement, so that readers, when they saw the “LB” logo on the spine of the book, could trust that the prose inside was close to the author’s vision or truth. Publishing was a linear, collaborative,  and analog process, person-to-person, requiring sustained attention by many editors over a period of approximately 9 months. This process has not yet been mapped to the digital world of publications, and rarely exists any more in the world of publishing conglomerates.

In addition to the editors names above, outside of the trade discipline, and into peer-reviewed scientific publications, one needs also to consider peer review editors, who read colleagues’ work and recommend it for publishing or not, usually in a “blind” process where the reviewer is unknown to the author. Again, these editors are part of a larger system, a publishing house, with their goal being to ensure that the resulting publication is as close to the truth as possible.

For independently produced, digital multimedia, kinetic books of the present and future, will there continue to be one single umbrella entity, like LB Co.,  providing a quality control process, funding and distribution for publications produced by editors practicing such roles, plus all the new editing roles — link, video, translation, and display editors for example?    I doubt it.

Roaming about the digital plains today we find many editors of all stripes — most of them freelancing as book doctors or consultants, outside of publishing houses. Who if anyone will harvest their knowledge and skills in author support, in book enabling in this new age? And who will train the generation of editing people and programs to come? Will readers be able to continue to rely on traditional publishers’ logos to ensure that what lies inside a book’s covers is true?

We digital publishers are akin to the first amphibians flopping on the beach, gasping for air as we emerge from the sea of traditional, paper- and product-based publishing. Our old analog ways of doing things, like editing,  do not map to this new world of immediate creation and publication, of living out loud. We see the Tower of Babel rising before our eyes, self erecting. Our search for answers happens urgently, in real time. Thanks to ASU & FBF for leading the industry to define and assume its role in the new world.

See als, from the early days of online publishing:

The Russian Oligarch Affair, Chapter One (final part)


Boris Golitsin was a bear and that was the only similarity Andromeda had seen between him and her father. Smallwolf Baginski had been skinny, for a bear, and somebody she had trusted for more reasons that just because he was her father. If he had ended up in Valhalla, as he had believed he would, Ragnarök was not going to be what was expected. Smallwolf had been, like his father before him, a Sergeant of the Landing Force, and the Landing Force trained and fought to win.
He had never been flabby. Even when he was deadly serious, he had never been dour. He was the man you wanted around when there was trouble.
Andromeda was more like him than she realised.
Golitsin had not made a pass at her, but the way he watched her was discomforting. And there were times when she wondered if he even heard what she was saying. If he had been ruthless it had been a ruthlessness that did not take risks. It had been a ruthlessness without rejoicing in achievement. And, while Stepney Estates could supply what he wanted, she was beginning to wonder just what he planned to use them for.
Some office blocks had Executive Dining Rooms, but not this one. It was, Hugh had once told her, somewhat like the way the Army fed itself in the field everyone getting the same food, Gonville Todd queuing with everyone else and if something was going wrong, he would hear about it. Golitsin was uncomfortable and Andromeda liked that. It would give her an edge.
She didn’t touch the wine. The catering crew knew her, and the coffee they had brewed for her was made to suit her tastes. They knew what she had done at Davos, and it had been for people like them. They reckoned she was worth the effort.
Golitisin’s meal was only a matter of professional pride.
Her mug was most particularly hers, oversized, and bearing the Landing Force badge, and not the official one. She loaded up with a refill when she finished, and she noticed that Golitsin seemed bemused by the way that everyone did their own clear up, even the big boss. Maybe he didn’t notice the chance it gave for a private comversation.
“Has he made an offer yet?”
“Just the sort of logistics he wants, nothing about why or how much.” She asked for her refill. “I think he sees me as beneath him.”
Gunny smirked for a moment. “I imagine he might.”
“He hasn’t a chance.”
“Try not to kill him too much, my dear.”
“Did he really arrange to have you and Mother mugged?”
“The loathsome chap who tried was Bulgarian, No evidence, but the Bulgars did a lot of dirty work for the KGB. Golitsin was Sixth Directorate, which was…
“…economic warfare, officially counter-intelligence.” Andromeda grinned. “Spying on industry is a great way to line up some good deals for after you quit your government job.”
“He was keeping their secrets for them, my dear.”
“And I am sure he is adequately paid for that.”
“You’re being cynical.”
Andromeda shrugged, and picked up her mug of coffee. “I am an anarchist. I have a theory of mind that says sane people help each other, and I am a protector. Not like that silly American novel, not some weird mutation driven by exotic chemistry or the bite of a radioactive spider, but I do what I do because I believe it is right. I think you’re just a better liar than I am.”
“Age and experience.” Gonville Todd winked. “It depends what he thinks you are.”
“Most likely, a victim.”
“He will get a shock.”

The Boardroom was designed to impress. Gonville Bellman had gained a certain reputation for taste from the design of Stepney House, and the boardroom had the same sense of practically applied good taste. It signalled, to those with the mental tools to notice, that Stepney Estates was run by somebody who could do whatever they wanted, and chose carefully.
And it was not a room which favoured any person, or suggested that somebody was in charge. Andromeda settled in a chair which was comfortable for her tail and sipped at her coffee. Her iPhone, fresh-rooted that morning, and as secure as any personal mechanism could be, seemed quiescent. She looked safe, in herself and towards others.
Gonville introduced the others to Golitsin. There was her oldest brother, Ranulf Baginski, her cousins, Roberta and Charlie Bellman, Robert Thorneycroft, and Maurice Oxford. She paid attention to how Golitsin reacted. There was a difference in how he looked at Roberta. One which didn’t surprise her.
It was Maurice Oxford who dropped the bombshell. Right from the start he had been playing up his accent, but Andromeda had no trouble stripping away the Mancunian veneer.
“We will have no problem with delivery, but we do not recommend you put the Server Farm in Luxembourg. The EU Commission is instituting proceedings to harmonise their very low tax rate on electronic delivery of goods. Our assessments are that you will be unable to sustain your pricing model.”
Andromeda picked up the ball. “What this means for us is that our investment in hardware and the increasingly expensive local workforce will not be repaid. Your business model depends on winning a price war with Amazon, and we are not willing to extend you credit for that purpose.”
“We have the money,” said Golitsin. “I declare to you that I can personally supply up to one billion Euro for this purpose. In addition, we are making provisions to get a revenue stream from sales of advertising space within the ebooks. You appreciate that this is in confidence.”
“Of course,” said Gonville.
“Amazon,” said Maurice, “reported UK sales of over seven billion pounds. Somewhere over 10 billion Euro, depending on exchange rates. I doubt that your billion will be enough. They have a reputation that allows them to lose money.”
“I can guarantee one billion Euro. I have assurances of more that would be made available at need.” Golitsin smiled.
Gonville looked back at him, and there was something in his smile that Andromeda recognised. She had seen it in newsreel footage of her Grandfather, a long time ago when he had sailed into the Spontoons lagoon with a ship recovered from pirates. It was the sort of smile that you could image being smiled by Drake, and any number of near-pirates.
It was a smile which scared her, because she knew when she had smiled it. And Golitsin was not bragging.
She could guess where the money was coming from, and he wasn’t trying to launder it. He was going to lose it.
It was not a way of fighting she was used to, but she could recall instances from history, history that was encompassed by her Uncle’s lifetime. The Russians would spend a million men to defeat a few hundred thousand, but they knew their losses would be replaced.
Golitsin was no Stalin.
Andromeda half-closed her eyes, and sipped cooling coffee, and wondered if she had been mistaken about a Mad Queen. She had seen it, spent a lifetime with the Soviet Union as a threat, had an idea of what drove them. And it was the same for her Uncle.
She wondered what the weather was like in Valhalla.

No Borders


The content is the king, and the device is not important anymore. Print, e-book, mobile, digital or live shows – everything shall mix in the same bowl. A consumer will buy a print book together with the online edition and an interactive wisdom of the crowd platform. the new publishers should adjust themselves into a publishing process that never ends. From the minute that the book is published, it will always live and kick because of the crowd that will add his insights on the fly. No borders between different devices, no borders between the author and the readers, no borders between the true facts and the wisdom of marketing forces. It will definitely be interesting and cjallenging, and we will always have the print edition, to rely on..

Will books evolve?


Evolution takes a great deal of time and happens over generations rather than lifetimes.

The definition of a ‘book’ will not evolve until paper copies of books cease to be published.   Long player vinyl records are no longer mass produced for music but the notion of an album still exists on iTunes even through the physical product is almost dead.  A collection of songs in a particular style will continue to be defined as an album as will a collection of words on a theme continue to be defined as a book.

What will evolve however is the notion of a story in fiction or a designated expert writer in non-fiction.   Around a camp fire or when reading to children many people can contribute to a story orally or change stories that they tell.  Digitized fiction books will take this ‘playfulness’ we have with the creation of stories and provide more ways to play with a story.   Whereas digitized non-fiction books will result in their not being one single expert but a number of contributors who could all be accessible to the reader.  In much the same way as the springbeyondthebook project.

A book will remain a book as it exists in its current form but the notion of a story or non-fiction content will evolve in the future.

There will always be books


Books are important. They educate us. They give us a great time. They show us marvelous adventours. Don’t you think it is great to sit in Starbucks and read your book  in the oldschool way – the paper one.  The scent of a book and the way a book looks like when you read it is diffrent to read a book on the iPad. Books can not be exchanged by the digital books.

How will the concept of the book evolve in the future?


What is a book and what isn’t? Are books an accident of history? How do books shrink space and crunch time? And what on Earth is a zimboe? Read our authors’ ruminations on the evolving concept of the book to find out:

Learn more about our project and share your vision for the future of the book at!

What Is a Book? Discuss


In the news sphere, there can be endless arguments over whether this person or that person is a journalist. It’s a pointless conversation, because the real question is: What is journalism? Edge cases are easy. The New York Times is journalism. The “BlahBlahBlog” isn’t. But it gets blurry fast, and that’s where the conversation gets interesting.

We’re starting to have the same discussion in the book world. Again, the edge cases are easy. Here’s a book:

Cover of Charlie Stross' book The Atrocity Archives


Charlie Stross’ novel comes in print — bound pages — and in several e-book formats. It’s a book, period.

Not all books in the traditional realm are based on text, of course, though I’m hard-pressed to name a book that doesn’t include at least some text. Graphic novels and the heavy oversized volumes of photography we put on our coffee tables are just as much books as Charlie’s novel or Moby-Dick. But just as a collection of blog posts isn’t a book, the latest installment in some comic series isn’t either (though we do call them comic books).

This is also a collection of bound pages. It’s not a book, at least not in the context I want to use here:



The little notebooks I carry around, and into which I write notes of various kinds based on ideas and conversations, isn’t meant to be seen by others. It doesn’t start here and end there. It’s random. Book? Nope.

What about this volume, called Between Page and Screen:

Cover of the book "Between Page and Screen"


Its authors call it “an augmented reality book of poems.” Here’s a video of how it works.

Come back when you’ve watched it.

Is this really a book? Or is it something else, even if part of it fits between two covers?

Now check out “The Elements” on the iPad.

I love it. Is it a book? Probably, but I’m not sure what I’d say if I had to give a yes or no answer.

Welcome to the blurry world of tomorrow’s books — blurry in precisely the same way that some other media forms have become. It’s all about digital technology, of course, which subsumes everything that existed before, and then extends it into new realms. Things bleed into each other: The New York Times posts excellently produced video online, and the BBC publishes text-based articles.

The experimentation in book publishing today is great to see. People are using technology to push out the boundaries. At some point, though, what they create no longer seems to fit into any category with historical antecedents.

I’ve asked any number of people in recent months what a book is. The answers have ranged about as widely as you’d expect. Several zeroed in on a fairly simple but powerful notion: a book starts here, holds your attention for a non-trivial period of time and ends there. Then again, so does a walk in the woods, or a film.

I suspect a book will be anything we decide to call one. Traditional books, after all, span an enormous range of presentation methods, not just topics and styles. Maybe we’re just adding new methods.

Words take on new meanings in any case. When was the last time you dialed a phone number by turning a little wheel on a landline telephone with a wire connected to a wall plug? But you knew what I meant by dialing.

I do worry that our shrinking attention spans will make traditional reading less and less relevant. But, ever optimistic, I’ll predict that books — whatever that means — do have a future, because we need them.

Book as Fluke: A Thought Experiment


What if the existence of books were a cosmic accident, not something irrevocably part of our evolution, not intrinsic to the human experience, but more or less the most profitable thing to be produced from a printing press, a function of commerce and retail and/or a function of religious or scholarly systems? What if the book perpetuated itself not out of necessity, but through a human desire for profits, ego inflation and prestige? Particularly when looking at contemporary attitudes toward the book, as Richard Nash discussed in his essay “The Business of Literature” (2013), books might be seen as culturally “important” partly because of a public relations campaign mounted by the father of spin, Edward Bernays:

“Where there are bookshelves,” [Bernays] reasoned, “there will be books.” So he got respected public figures to endorse the importance of books to civilization, and then he persuaded architects, contractors, and decorators to put up shelves on which to store the precious volumes.

There is so much mythology and self-important discussion surrounding books that we sometimes forget the book is a technology, so old a technology it has disappeared into the background. A book as set of bound, typeset pages has nothing in particular to do with the survival of storytelling, reading or writing. But the advent of the printing press and the advent of the book are so closely connected that we tie the benefits and importance of the printing press (cheap and quick distribution of information) to the benefits and importance of the book (the vessel carrying the information). Perhaps they are inseparable throughout much of their history, but now that we’re undergoing another paradigm shift – a new way of distributing information quickly and cheaply, through the Internet – one has to question whether the book, which is tied so closely to the advent of the printing press, will retain its meaning, relevance and utility in the digital age.

The great growth of reading and writing we’re now experiencing is connected to the Internet’s abundance of information and instant-publishing opportunities, not books. In fact, books have been mostly absent from the Internet (for reading and reference) because they’re closed off in separate universes, not often made available for search, and not as freely distributed, copied and subscribed to as other digital media. In Google’s attempts to bring books inside the fold of the Web, they have faced innumerable challenges and legal battles from people who wish to strictly protect the copyright and profits related to books.

But it may not matter in the end, because the book – either as a unit of commerce or as a unit of attention – may not be the best way to satisfy the needs and desires of people who can instantly access information from mobile devices and be entertained by an unlimited amount of media. As Marcus Dohle said at the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair, “We want [customers] to choose books as a future, and not Netflix – and that is a big task.” Industry consultant Mike Shatzkin has also said that the biggest challenge facing publishers isn’t the digitization of books or Amazon’s retail practices but the consumer deciding to pass the time by playing Angry Birds or scanning Facebook rather than reading a book.

This challenge, as Dohle says, is a big one. Some controversial articles have argued that the best storytelling today is found on TV, not books. Some have accused literary fiction of becoming irrelevant to contemporary life. Tim O’Reilly famously said the following on Charlie Rose in 2012:

I don’t really give a shit if literary novels go away. They’re an elitist pursuit. And they’re relatively recent. The most popular author in the 1850s in the US wasn’t Herman Melville writing Moby-Dick, you know, or Nathaniel Hawthorne writing The House of the Seven Gables. It was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writing long narrative poems that were meant to be read aloud. So the novel as we know it today is only a 200-year-old construct. And now we’re getting new forms of entertainment, new forms of popular culture.

Recent innovations in delivering stories have not typically come from book publishers, but from start-ups or online-based companies that can closely evaluate reader reaction and behavior. Amazon, following the lead of other media start-ups, has launched digital initiatives such as Kindle Singles (to deliver stories between 10,000 and 30,000 words), Kindle Serials (to sell story subscriptions) and Kindle Worlds (to deliver fan fiction). None of these genres or formats really fit into the existing paradigm of the book or the legal strictures surrounding it; therefore the traditional publishing business, concerned about profits and marketability, has rarely pursued such content. Now that such areas are flourishing in the digital environment, we begin to recognize the artificial construct of the book – that its length, shape and purpose is based on manufacturing, marketing and other commercial considerations.

Yet some do effectively argue that the book has evolved to encompass the perfect unit of attention and the perfect length to expound on an idea. Maybe this is true, or maybe this is just what we’re used to; after all, attention spans appear to be changing. Still, it’s difficult to envision that a book-length work of fiction – the novel – will become extinct any time soon. It seems likely to continue, but as a less popular form. Consider how the invention of the LP once led musicians to focus on the art and craft of the album: now the digitization of music has ushered in the age of the single. Perhaps fiction is headed in the same direction, something more befitting our short bursts of attention or time when we’re seeking 5-10 minutes of entertainment while standing in line at the grocery store or waiting at the doctor’s office.

The idea actually under threat is the book as information vehicle. Much of the publishing industry – especially the educational sector – is acutely aware that the typical book doesn’t necessarily do the best job of imparting information. Many nonfiction publishers have completely stopped talking about “books” and now focus on content strategy and media agnosticism, recognizing the need to deliver information in many different channels, formats and environments. Wiley’s CEO Steve Smith has said in a range of talks that his company’s job as an educational publisher is not to deliver information or content, but to develop services. By that he means: servicing universities, students and professionals with online courses, assessment, workflow tools, communities and, yes, digital books.

I also wonder about the feasibility, particularly in the nonfiction realm, of culture continuing to deify the author, according him great respect, authority and prestige for producing a book. For writers that subject themselves to the wisdom of the crowd, whether through an agile publishing model that collects reader feedback or a series of blog posts, they’re deeply aware that their own knowledge and perspective, without the knowledge and input of others, often falls short. Case in point: Nature found that Wikipedia is about as accurate as Encyclopædia Britannica. Wikipedia of course has its weaknesses (mainly in structure and style), but the resource is still in its infancy when compared to Britannica.

As far as the role and primacy of the author in storytelling, I can’t help but refer once again to the strength of current TV writing, where a room of writers debate and produce a story arc collectively. While there is usually a creator or visionary, someone who has come up with the premise (as in the case of Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad), most show creators are quick to give equal credit to the many writers they work with.

Bottom line, we forget that the idea of authorship – and the creation of copyright – came along with the printing press. Before the printing press, there really wasn’t any such thing as an “author.” There were scribes and historians, but authorship is a relatively new idea. With the digital age, we may see the role of the author start to disappear or diminish. Futurist David Houle has predicted this and said in an interview that the younger generations are not as concerned with control as they are influence. They are more interested in completing projects in a collaborative manner, rather than the ego- and identity-centered “I’ve got to go off by myself and create my work of art.” This latter attitude pretty much nails the primary mode and concern of novel writers today, who find themselves in dramatic opposition to the technology surrounding them. (See: Jonathan Franzen and Dave Eggers.)

Building Worlds Out of Books


We’ve been writing about the future of the book without having given much thought to the question of what a book is in the first place. Is it a physical, papery artifact, a thing? An autonomous textual unit of attention made up of meaningful bite-sized subunits? A word whose persistence in language is merely a matter of convention, a residue of more bookish times?

I’d like to propose that a book is a window onto a world. If this is true, we have good reason to believe that books will survive in a form that will remain recognizable to us.

Books project worlds by objectifying thought. They freeze in place a story, a longish idea or a description of life. Books are one means of taking a world, real or invented, and compressing it, encoding it and presenting it. Books shrink space and crush time. So long as we enjoy shrinking space and crushing time, we’ll crave book-like things.

Then again, in the same breath that they create worlds, books also destroy themselves. When I read a science fiction novel (and not only science fiction), I read for worlds. I define the word world as the sum total of relations – among things, characters, settings, laws, etc. – within a bounded imaginative space. If the book does its job, its bookishness will dissolve into the reader’s concern for characters and situations and plots. Even the most intensely avant-garde poetry (think Kenneth Goldsmith’s American trilogy) or the boldest experiments in book design (think Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes) construct worlds. Even the most book-conscious books are finally self-effacing.

Which might lead us to doubt that books need to survive. If I can watch a skillfully made rendition of Frank Herbert’s Dune, of what special use is the novel? It’s true, literary style is only one sort of window onto interesting worlds. But it’s a window with strengths and weaknesses, zones of clarity and opacity. Despite a century of efforts to do so, no novel will ever offer the visceral experience of a play or film or television show or video game. Contrariwise, non-literary modes of world-building still stink at dramatizing thought or deploying metaphor. Within the domain of prose fiction, moreover, short stories can only hint at the fullness of an imagined or real world, a job the novel does with ease.

There are also economic reasons why books will likely survive. In an age of vertically integrated multinational media conglomerates, books remain useful as vehicles for the creation of worlds on the cheap, worlds that subsequently spawn other higher-margin worldish media products. A company like DC Comics sustains its comics division almost purely as a means of research and development for its profitable films. Film producers often outsource creativity to popular novels or book series. The book (whether of poetry, drama or prose) fits snugly in curricula and on syllabi at every level of education. Finally, the novel is still at the peak of the pyramid of narrative and cultural prestige. No other form comes close to capturing the imagination of a world-hungry public. These are forces that will, fortunately, be hard to dislodge.

The future of the concept of the book is therefore the future of the book’s capacity to facilitate the reader’s access to worlds. As long as humans are hungry for fully evoked worlds that include figuration or densely packed information or renditions of characters (or people) whose inner lives are richly accessible, something very much like the book will survive.