Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

December 23, 2010

Could the Salvation of Publishing Come from Outside the Industry?

Filed under: Frank Remarks,On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 9:33 AM

The acceptance of electronic books in the marketplace has reached critical mass. A recent report by CNN states that by 2015, 50% of all books sold will be electronic and the opportunities to extend the reading ‘experience’ through mobile devices will be provided by tablets like the iPad and cell phones like the Android.

There are two trends that will push publishing as we know it today into a new reading ‘experience’ – representing the future of publishing.

The first trend is the move to transmedia publishing. The second is the untapped market of mobile devices that will soon dwarf e-books through almost 5 billion cell phones and 1 billion broadband connections worldwide.

Let’s take transmedia first. What is it?

Wikipedia defines it thus: as storytelling across multiple forms of media with each element making distinctive contributions to a fan’s understanding of the story world. By using different media formats, transmedia creates “entrypoints” through which consumers can become immersed in a story world.

But there is another definition. Transmedia is not just telling the same story in different formats or on multiple platforms. True trasnmedia adds new storylines in different media to extend, not just duplicate, the story and the reading experience. All forms of media can be used to give the audience the transmedia experience including, e-book, video, music, animation – even TV.

But for the transmedia product to be commercially accepted, it must extend the experience.  Henry Jenkins says in his article on transmedia:

In the ideal form of transmedia storytelling, each medium does what it does best-so that a story might be introduced in a film, expanded through television, novels, and comics, and its world might be explored and experienced through game play. Each franchise entry needs to be self-contained enough to enable autonomous consumption. That is, you don’t need to have seen the film to enjoy the game and vice-versa…. Redundancy between media burns up fan interest and causes franchises to fail. Offering new levels of insight and experience refreshes the franchise and sustains consumer loyalty. Such a multilayered approach to storytelling will enable a more complex, more sophisticated, more rewarding mode of narrative to emerge within the constraints of commercial entertainment.

I would add to that, the social media phenomenon and the constant contact readers can have with one another – which can add another dimension to the reading experience.
And just recently, the Producer’s Guild of America have recognised transmedia as a skill intrinsic to expanding storyworlds. Transmedia Producers might be the new ‘gatekeepers’ in the same way that publishers were.

Creating these multiple platforms for the ‘franchise’ or story would entail a big expense not to mention the work involved.

But suppose there was a solution to this multi-format beast. Is there an existing form that has the potential to combine all these platforms into a single product? And what technological platform would such a product reside on.

That brings us to the second trend mentioned in this article. — the mobile marketplace and the mobile devices that supports it.

The simple little product format that could integrate all media and be free from any and all platform restraints is the app.  Could the future of publishing be an APP?

The transmedia app is not a text file or a video or a game. An app can integrate all of these elements and offer the consumer a true transmedia reading experience. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Executive Optimist, Digital Book World, writes that “apps “demonstrated the real potential for delivering a truly engaging, innovative reading experience” which will be where publishers will see the golden opportunity and create the space for transmedia novels to jump in.

Alison Norrington, a bestselling chick-lit novelist, notes that “Transmedia novelists are still organically growing and a new breed of reader, one who embraces the “truly engaging, innovative reading experience”, will require a new breed of writer and publisher too.

The blog ‘StoryCentral DIGITAL’ sums this evolution up pretty well.

There will always be relentless arguments about the future of publishing and dedicated ‘serious readers’ will always complain about new technologies or shifting sands. There will also be legions of readers who want bite-sized chunks of story, options to watch video content supported by text and perhaps even to tweet about it as a participant afterwards. They’re the ones that will love transmedia novels!

What are your thoughts?

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