Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays *Plus* The Future of Publishing

A Christmas video for you... followed by what I think this video means for the future of publishing.

Kind of awesome, yes?

The drummer here is Sean Quigley, a sixteen-year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada). And what's remarkable here is not just that he can sing and drum, but that he rewrote all the music himself, played all the instruments, and directed and filmed and edited it (using a simple SLR digital camera). This is a true micro-production. It was made with talent, a standard digital camera, and a home computer.

A) this says something about the kid's talent. 1.3 million views and counting... I don't know how many downloads he's had, but probably a lot. In fact, he probably won't need a paper route or a job at McD's any time soon.

And B), I think this says something about the future of publishing and the digital revolution. I was going to say e-book, but why be limiting? Why think that ebooks are any sort of end point?

We've seen the rise of ebooks over the last few years, and we're still trying to figure out this new world. What is it, and how exactly do we use it? And this video really struck home to me the fact that I probably won't be the one to figure it out, to find a way to fully maximize the digital frontier in the process of making art.

But it might be my children.

I have a feeling that the Ebook (Digital) Overlords will not fully rise until the next generation, from children who grew up in a digital world, who have lived and breathed it and know only this. This video is, yes, a product of talent, but it also strikes me that this is someone utterly familiar with this new world. The technology of creation and editing and streaming and the omnipresence of Youtube's global market.

If I wanted to make a video, I would likely have to Google a bunch of How To explanations. Now, talent (if I happened to have any) and perseverence might, in the end, allow me to create something fine, depending on how well I teach myself the knowledge I need. But I don't think it will ever be the same as someone who has grown up in this, someone for whom these processes are as common as putting bread in the toaster. Toast! Wow! I'm sure, in my parent's generation, there were millions who were offput by computers and microwave ovens. Certainly, many adopted these things, and started to figure out how to use them. But for my generation these things have become second nature.

And now our children have a new digital age to grow up in. It strikes me that, in publishing, we are building something. Something for them. We're exploring the boundaries of this new world, charting and mapping, and settling here and there, trying to carve out a home, a living, a future. But the real future, the phantasmal cities of the imagination, may come from the children of these settlers and explorers.

People who know me will know that I love paper books. Everything about them: their individuality, their distinctness, their feel, their smell, the purity of how they operate in the imagination. And I hope they live in the world forever. But I can't deny that the future will be shared with (and perhaps dominated by) digital books and intertextual digital art. And I'm curious to see what this will look like. I'm curious to see what my children will make of this new world, and what strange new cityscapes will arise from the tapping of their fingertips.


Sarah McCabe said...

I like to think there won't be any more overlords. No more gatekeepers, no more "elite" in monolithic industries controlling production and distribution. And I mean for all artistic mediums, not just literature. This century is going to be the one that completely changes how the world works. And there are some industries that will either need to adapt to the new realities or die.

Rick Daley said...

Cool video, his talent reminds me of Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters).

I think the digital age will advance faster than we may realize. Kids are growing up faster, and growing up with the technology we will be forced to catch up with them.

My grandfather used to work on the Erie railroad and he had a punch-card computing system to track inventory. It would hold hundreds of bits of data, and at the time (1950's) it was a great time saver.

In the 80's, my dad tried to explain to his father the power of personal computers, and how bits and bytes accumulated into kilobytes and megabytes. My grandfather couldn't comprehend the immensity of the scale.

We're going to see a similar technological advancement in our lifetimes; perhaps we will be able to grasp it better, but it will outpace us older folk (I just turned 40, so that's my gauge for age).

Have a great holiday! Read up on Kris Kringle when you have a chance ;-)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's changing very fast. I've tried to keep up with most of the changes and admit I am a total eBook convert. Someone else blogged about interactive content and videos in eBooks and I can see it happening. Very, very soon.
I can still remember when something a revolutionary as Pong and Atari hit the market...

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

This post makes my heart sing. Because I know you love the art of writing and all things musical and artistic and for you to look to the digital future and see phantasmal cities ... that captures beautifully the joy I have in writing for my kids and exploring this world with them.

Thank you for that! (And for having my book on your sidebar!! *love*)

As I was reading your post, my middle son came up to me and said,"Mom, for your next fantasy book, you should use monsters from my Book of Monsters."

I said, "Honey, YOU should write a book with your characters."

"But they're not my characters. They're from the D&D Book of Monsters."

"It doesn't matter. The ideas are yours, and you have fantastic ideas. I'll help you, if you want, but I know you would write a great story."

And he will - that one, and his brothers and friends, will be the architects of our future. And it will be filled with wondrous things. :)

M.A. Leslie said...

Our son loves taking videos with the digital camcorder that he bought with his birthday money and loves making better videos with the one that Amy got for her birthday.
Both kids, Cameron and Abbi, are talented with the use of electronics and computers in a way that is well beyond my years at their age.
I started with a Commador 64. I miss that box, keyboard, and buttons (Who decided that everything touch screen was better? When did we stop loving buttons?)

M.A. Leslie said...

For the record that is the coolest Little Drummer Boy version ever!!!

D.G. Hudson said...

Co-existence is possible, which is the way I'd like to see it. Overlords always turn into dictators.

Happy Holidays, Bryan, to you and your family.

maine character said...

Video is definitely the language of the new generation. And I can see a future where some kid can create some sonic 3D hike through imaginary mountains, complete with singing dwarves, and anyone who wants to will be able to tap into that same trip, with the mist of the mountains swirling about them and a wizard asking them onto an adventure.

But Tolkien did that with just words.

Matthew MacNish said...

This kid even made it onto NPR, which was where I first heard of him.

I got my younger daughter a Kindle Fire for Christmas, but the first thing she did was not an app or a video, it was to go buy a book.

I don't know what that means, if anything, but I like it.

Did you hear about this Infinity Ring thing?

Bryan Russell said...

Nope, never heard of it.

And buying books is the best addiction around.

Matthew MacNish said...