So what does the next generation make of the way digital books are roiling the publishing industry? “I’m ready to adapt,” says Jen Bray, after completing a course on Amazon, Apple, and Google in Emerson College’s graduate program in Writing, Publishing, and Literature. “In the beginning I was all about the book. I’ve changed.”
She’s not the only 20-something in this four-hour weekly seminar that led by David Goehring, former director of Harvard Business Press and now director of digital publishing at Wiley, to have changed her attitude about the three tech giants and the need to move toward a digital future sooner than later. She and her classmates have begun posting their thoughts about the digital revolution in[Appazoogle,a blog that began as a class project.
“In a lot of ways our generation is in the middle, we’re almost like a bridge,” says Lana Popovic, who was born in Serbia and received a degree in law before studying publishing to become an agent. Despite the proliferation of self-publishing, she thinks that agents will continue to serve an important role for both writers and publishers. She sees the Appazoogle blog as a bridge, too.
Other digital newbies have come to the class after studying medicine, working as a police sketch artist, and interning for Simon & Schuster in the UK. “The digital revolution presents great opportunities. It will provide a new medium for new content. It’s going to turn into a collaborative effort. Writers have to come out of their isolated world. It can’t just be about creating a book with more features,” says Jenka Eusebio, who spent three years working in Japan where keitai shousetsu (cell phone novels) have rapidly grown in popularity. “I delayed coming here for two years because I wanted to work with e-books.”
Some writers in the group are not quite so sanguine. In a recent blog post on “Back to the Days of Dickens,” Zaynah Qutubuddin, acknowledges that “writers better adapt fast or we might become extinct.” Still, she says, “The idea of having my words sold digitally instead of physically, especially at the deep discount prices Amazon sells them for, makes me think I should go back, take the MCATs, and aim for a stable career in the medical field.”
Many who entered the Emerson program did so with the expectation that print publishing hadn’t and wouldn’t change. “We got into this program thinking that publishing was like it was 20 years ago,” says Mike Pickett, a recent convert to electronic books. “We really want publishing to succeed.” Freelancer Leah Thompson agrees. As the pace of change continues to accelerate, she says, “The name may change. It may not be ‘publisher.’ ” But there will be publishing. And that’s what she and her classmates still want to do, in whatever form it takes.