Thursday, March 24, 2011

Will the World be Taken Over By Technology?

Hi, Rhys here again. A couple of interest coincidencs happen this week:
A few weeks ago I was approached by my publisher Minotaur to write a Molly Murphy story that they would put up as an ebook, to help to lure new readers to my series at the time Bless the Bride came out. I did this—it’s a quel when Molly is a teenager, and it’s called The Amersham Rubies. So I was going to mention it at some stage on the blogs when I got an email from blog mate Julia Spencer Fleming asking me to mention her ebook promotions, tied to the release of her next book, One was a Solider. I’ll give Julia’s details at the bottom of this article.

There has been so much buzz recently on the future of publishing and whether the real paper book is now on the way of the dodo. Certainly my e-book sales are outstripping my real book sales on Amazon. Maybe it’s only a matter of time before the libraries all just stock ebooks. Some people tell me they still love the feel of a real book in their hands, but that won’t be true for the next generation. My seven year old grandson loves his Kindle. He likes the fact that he can make the type bigger and that he can listen to the book when he gets too tired to read.

What this will mean for writers, I’m not sure. However I don’t believe the world will be taken over by technology for a couple of reasons. One was that I was in a big craft store this week and it was really busy. Women and children were being crafty all around me, in spite of the fact that nobody these days needs to make anything. People enjoy making things. It’s in our genes. Look at the incredible popularity of all the craft mysteries—knitting, quilting, scrapbooking, cooking, you name it, there is a mystery series about it.

And I was in a friend’s house the other day admiring the art work on her walls when it struck me that we still like paintings, although photographs give a more accurate rendition. So why do we like art work when in a technological world we’d have photos and even holographs on our walls? And why do we like a real fire in the fireplace when our houses are well heated with a central furnace?
There must be something in us that likes the real, the traditional, the safe, the sturdy. We go to real plays rather than movies. We play real board games with real people. We cook for family gatherings when we could easily buy all the food pre-cooked. We get satisfaction from gardening and growing our own vegetables. We are not designed to be idle people. Our genes expect us to forage and hunt, to cut wood and make fires. And we like to turn pages to. So I’m hopeful that real books will continue to be part of our future. How about you?

And while we're on the subject of e-books, two announcements. My Molly story, The Amersham Rubies will finally be available as an e book on May 10th. And here's the snippet Julia wanted me to announce: Here's your chance to start Julia's Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series for almost nothing. In the Bleak Midwinter is available as an e-book for only $2.99 through April 12 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Sony Reader Store and other online venues. Also available for the even nicer price of $0.00: Letters to a Soldier, with correspondence to and from the War Zone by characters in the upcoming One Was A Soldier. You can download it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Sony Reader Store and the iBookstore.


  1. Interesting blog, Rhys. But technology HAS taken over the art world. Go to any gallery these days and the 'water colors' and drawings turn out to be Giclee -- a very high quality reproduction. Many artists no longer sell their original art work. I know the widow of an artist who let a gallery run a show of her husband's framed watercolors - they returned it and some time later she discovered they'd returned Giclee, not the originals.

  2. Hallie, you should know about the tech stuff--COME AND FIND ME is the perfect example.

    ANd RO, isn't PUSHING UP DAISIES almost free on Amazon soon?

    RHys, We all remember, right, when there was only black and white tv? And when everyone listened to to he radio? And a "fax" was an amazing new invention? Transition is always--interesting. And wow, we are in the midst of it!

    (Someone said the other day: there was certainly a time when someone said--"I liked the wall-writing on our caves, but hey, lookit these cool scroll things!")

  3. Such a fascinating topic; this is the third writers' blog since yesterday to address the issue. I only read four, so that's significant!

    Rhys, thanks for the link. I clicked on it, signed in, and downloaded a copy of your book to my Nook, in less than five seconds. Instant gratification!

    My hope is that publishers figure this out so that pricing makes it easier for more people to buy books in e-format. It really is a no-brainer; I don't know why they don't get it. Women, in particular, are big readers, and at the same time are early adapters of electronic gizmos, including readers. In the last two years I can't tell you how many I've seen in airports and on planes, nearly all being used by women. I finally had to get one myself, and I'm utterly thrilled with the color version of the Nook.

    Still buying "real" books, too, though.

    By the way, what a horror story, Hallie. I hope the widow got her husband's originals back.

  4. It's such an interesting time to be a writer--and nobody seems to know what the outcome will be.

    The Boston Globe had a spread today on the resurgence of crafts. I think it comes in waves--every few years people rediscover knitting or crocheting. I haven't knit much for at least five years, but I came home from Ireland with some gorgeous silk-wool yarn that I couldn't resist. There's something inherently soothing about working with your hands, and at the end you have something tangible to show for your time.

    As for books--is the experience of reading words and visualizing a story in your mind the same regardless of the medium?

  5. Rhys, your combination of crafting and ebooks struck a chord with me. My 10-year-old is learning to crochet and embroider, and she loves the patient detail that goes into hand-crafting. She also likes to play computer dress-up dolls. She loves to read on my Sony eReader (I've loaded in several middle-grade and young YA books just for her) but we also just placed a 4-book order with the Scholastic Book club.

    What all this says to me is that when all the big business issues over which we authors are tearing our hair out are settled, I think there will be more than enough room for all kinds of reading materials. There will be more-expensive and less-expensive paper books. There will be more expensive and less expensive ebooks.

    Of course, we may not read any of them because we're spending all our time on blogs, Facebook and Twitter...

    (Word verification: comen. Sumer is a-comen in. Oh, don't I wish.)

  6. Very interesting, Rhys, and very much on everyone's minds these days. While most people I know enjoy their technology (just try to pry my new Android phone--with Kindle--from my hands,) and we love the sense of connectedness the internet and social media bring us, we also seem to have a strong urge to do and make things that are "real", from quilts to real food to gardens.

    But when I say "we" I realize I mean women--I wonder how men are fitting into this ying-yang framework. My hubby watches YouTube videos of guys doing minimalist camping in Germany and the UK, and webcams of hatching eagles . . .

    Any comments from the guys?

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  8. Deb-

    I know that my husband, a total techie - who designs wide scale technology solutions for a living loves to putter at home fixing things I used to call a professional in to do. So it's not just a female thing. I also have male friends who build their own kayaks, and cabinetry. So the craft may be different for men, but the urge isn't.

    Although I have both an IPAD and a Kindle, I still love real, live books, mostly because they are so much easier to leaf through -- especially a research book.

    But the world is changing, with or without us.

  9. Deb - Technology seems to be making men superfluous, not just paper books, if you ask me. Gene pools and test tubes; all those electronic systems and weapons for protection and security; robots to mow the lawn and take out the trash. We all know women are tougher, smarter, and more adaptable. World socialization through electronic media eventually means the end of war and the end of males. Once the fighting stops, who needs us? I think the plot has already started, right here at Jungle Red. That's why I'm hanging out. I'm a spy.

  10. Sorry, ladies. Austin's been drinking a lot this week. I'll try to keep closer tabs on him.

  11. Sorry, guys, I'm not giving up my hubby for a robot. He's a mean plumber, fixer, and electrician. And he cleans out the nasty pond filter:-)

  12. Oh, and he designed and built my beautiful website. Any failure in upkeep is strictly due to me.