Not related to the rest of today’s post: Lisa See, who I met back in September and is absolutely lovely, has a new book coming out in May. Click here to read an excerpt of Shanghai Girls, or to enter for the chance to win an advance copy.

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You know how some people live-blog their favorite shows, or concerts, or presidential inaugurations? Well today I decided to live-blog my reading of “Books Unbound,” a piece in Time Magazine which looks (briefly) at the evolution of the publishing industry and the novel.

Now, you have no way of knowing for sure that I live-blogged this, since I posted it like a normal blog entry, but take my word for it. Would I lie to you?

(Well, if there was enough chocolate involved…)

Okay, don’t answer that. Let’s just begin.

A lot of headlines and blogs to the contrary, publishing isn’t dying. But it is evolving, and so radically that we may hardly recognize it when it’s done.

Awesome! And terrifying at the same time. Kind of like the contestants on American Idol.

Four of the five best-selling novels in Japan in 2007 belonged to an entirely new literary form called keitai shosetsu: novels written, and read, on cell phones.


Self-publishing has gone from being the last resort of the desperate and talentless to something more like out-of-town tryouts for theater or the farm system in baseball. It’s the last ripple of the Web 2.0 vibe finally washing up on publishing’s remote shores. After YouTube and Wikipedia, the idea of user-generated content just isn’t that freaky anymore.

Uh, have you SEEN YouTube lately? I’m pretty sure “freaky” still applies.

If Old Publishing is, say, a tidy, well-maintained orchard, New Publishing is a riotous jungle: vast and trackless and chaotic, full of exquisite orchids and undiscovered treasures and a hell of a lot of noxious weeds.

Aren’t there monkeys in the jungle too? Can I be a publishing monkey? … Wait a minute.

We’ll see more novels doled out episodically, on the model of TV series or, for that matter, the serial novels of the 19th century.

Like Twenty-Somewhere! Seriously, y’all, I am the new Dickens. (Hmm, who does that make MJ, Sophie, and Claudia? Pip, Oliver Twist, Tiny Tim??)

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting article, and like Erin said, sometimes you gotta be able to laugh at the industry, otherwise you’ll go cower in a corner and cry.

5 responses to “Live-blogging the future of the novel”

  1. renaissancetrophywife Avatar

    Love the concept of live-blogging an article! And I’m hapa too… yay mixed kids!

    • renaissancetrophywife’s recent blog post: Craft Corner: The Surprise Invite

  2. Kristan Avatar

    AW YAY! I love meeting other halfies/hapas!

  3. Marci Avatar

    People used to do serial publishing when I was younger. I remember out local newspaper would publish individual chapters each week of a children’s or young adult novel. My sister and I really loved it since it inspired us to read and inspired my mom to read with us. I’m glad they are getting back into it, although I suppose now it won’t be in newspapers, but online.

  4. Angie Avatar

    Just like advertising, it’s more a shift than a death. 20SW is awesome, although I’m not sure I could read it on my cell phone (wait until next week as I read it on my ipod…)

    • Angie’s recent blog post: Instant Poladroid

  5. Kristan Avatar

    That’s really cool! I don’t think that’s common anymore, but I always wanted my local papers to do it too. One more reason Allentown is awesome, eh? ;)

    Yeah, I think a lot of industries are going to go through changes given (a) technology and (b) economic constraints. I heard the movie industry is going through a similar transition to what this article describes for publishing: basically the big players wait for the small players to put themselves out there and then pick up the ones that do best.

    I definitely couldn’t write 20SW on my cell phone! (And not just because I don’t have a plan with internet, haha.)