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Choices and Mobility for Writers

People are no longer tied to consuming information in only one way, whether that’s movies, television, music, books, information in general. This is less a question of mobility than one of options: because technology permits it, people want to be able to consume what they want when they want it.

Netflix, for example, has taken advantage of a shift in viewing patterns by producing its own series, “House of Cards,” which people can watch in a few sittings, now that audiences are accustomed to catching up or devouring shows by renting them. It’s not uncommon for people to take in an entire series over a long weekend, such as “Game of Thrones” or, going back, “24” and other must-watch serial dramas.

Amazon’s streaming service is also going to get more important. Its library is growing and, while not as vast as that of Netflix, it is now offering the hit PBS series “Downtown Abbey” and will permit its customers to watch episodes of the coming CBS series, “Under the Dome,” adapted from the Stephen King novel, just four days after the episodes are aired on broadcast television. This is a move that, according to a news post, will be more profitable for CBS than if it were to air the episodes, with advertising, on its own website. Other options are sure to follow with additional providers of streaming services.

Newspapers haven’t quite figured out  yet how to profit from the digital revolution, with the profusion of information and the aggregation of news from all over, and magazines are still experimenting with formats for iPads and other tablets. In the book industry, too, it’s no longer about the big six publishers – Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Random House, Simon & Shuster and Penguin Putnam – which are themselves changing and consolidating. It’s about getting content out there and monetizing it in the right way.

Books are still, in a way, where music was some 15 years ago. It’s hard to make a profit on what you write, but some authors, especially those who write in genre, have been able to create successful careers by self-publishing their works – and marketing what they write in a way that draws buyers to their books.

The point is that the entire world of information consumption is in flux. You are in a position to take advantage of this by being nimble yourself, for weighing whether you want to self-publish, take a chance on finding a publisher, offering excerpts of your books, giving it away for free through your platform or however it will best move your ideas forward.

You’ve got options today – just as readers, viewers and listeners do. It’s confusing, but also exciting – and the possibilities should enflame your imagination for how you want your message to get out to the public.

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  • Anonymous

    I read about Kindle’s use of their viewer data the other day. It’s a bit creepy and also fascinating. It will be very interesting to see if the digital platforms for books open up the same kind of data gathering opportunities for authors.