An interlude, in which we find it helpful to imagine the future:
In the future of writing there are many websites. All the writers have one, like a new toy, or a fountain pen. They are easy to navigate, easy to read, nothing like the vacuous crap you sometimes find in the back-bowels of the present Internet. All the books are digital in this future, and all the books are published online (for free! – depending on author, the grouchy ones refuse, and so have less readers, and that serves them right -) or you can choose to buy them in Kindle/iPhone/pdf format. Some of these websites – design, tech and all, are run by the publishing houses. It doesn’t matter. The platform is intuitive and simple, and very transparent: new writers can set it up without reading even one line of code; they choose from a choice selection of basic web-fiction themes, all optimized to provide a unified, satisfying reading experience, and then they write. By golly they write! Gone are the days of the steep learning curve, the lonely writer piecing together the technology for publishing; gone is the code. There is no need for code, not in the future of writing. Everything is drag-and-drop. The barrier to entry for fiction publishing is effectively zero, the writer weeps for joy!
There are reader-centered communities in this future: review sites, filter sites; the interaction is instantaneous and warm and really neat. You can choose to chat about your favourite author (link to site included in discussion), and/or when you tire of conversation, you head over to the filter sites to choose from a list of editor’s picks. Everyone has a favourite. A favourite site; a favourite reviewer. You choose from the latest recommendations, and then you curl up in a corner of your sofa to read: laptop on pillow, head on hand. The hours go by. If it gets uncomfortable, and you have to go, you purchase the book for your phone and you grab the phone as you leave: for reading in the train.
Still later, you buy the book. The papers are crisp and fresh, and they smell good right out of the envelope, exactly like the old books of yore, of before Black Thursday – the publishing houses have converted the old printing presses into POD facilities. They’re very efficient now. Less paper is wasted. You customize the cover for your bookshelf – all your books look exactly the way you want them to, different covers, but embossed black spines. When you want to recommend a book, you shoot an email to your friends, or poke them in TheBigOnlineReadingRoom.com, and they say oh thank you we’ll see it later and they are happy because you send them books they like. Then you poke the author and write him/her a short note: thank you for that, it made my week so much better, and the author pokes you back, tells you that you’re welcomed, dear, it’s been a pleasure. And literacy programs are so much cheaper in the future of writing, your daughter buys all her books online, chooses her most loved ones for print, reads the rest on her phone, her PSP, her Kindle. One day, she tells you, she wants to be an author. And you smile now, you bring her to a computer, and you show her how.