In the digital age, how will our stories be told?
Last week, I read a blog post by Hugh Howey — the bestselling author of the Silo Series and a thought leader for indie and hybrid authors around the world — about the future of e-books and reading technology. To summarize, he believes we’ve only scratched the surface of digital reading. With the invention of Google Glass and similar products, we will be able to live in 3D augmented worlds, where information connects and responds to the environment around us. For the book industry, this might mean the best of both print and e-readers: physical books with blank pages that would be overlayed with text by the glasses, giving the reader the ability to download content at any time from anywhere and interact with that content, while still providing the traditional feel of the printed word.
Pretty cool ideas, and if the video embedded in his post is accurate, not far off at all.
But what does that mean for fiction writers and readers today? Should we be planning our writing projects to take advantage of multimedia opportunities? Will there even be novelists who focus solely on the written word in twenty or thirty years? Do readers want video embedded in their stories? What about choose your own adventure style books where the reader can direct the story, changing the ending or even creating their own characters to interact in the world?
There are already authors out there who are playing around with this stuff. Chuck Wendig is an advisor for a digital game called Storium, that allows players to collaboratively tell a story online. And there’s an iPad app called Device 6 that’s a story driven, text-based, Myst style room escape game. I’m sure there are many other examples out there. Will this become the norm?
For me, I still like the immersion of reading a story cover to cover. I want to lose myself in the novel, and only come up for air after I turn the last page. Once I’m done, it’s nice to have supplemental reading, like maps, short stories, character backgrounds, etc., but I think it would be distracting to have that kind of thing embedded in a text.
As for being an active participant in the story — like with a choose your own adventure — I just don’t see it being the same mental vacation that I enjoy when reading a great novel. I use a different part of my brain when I’m writing and creating stories, versus when I’m reading for pleasure. Creating a story is fun, but it’s also hard work.
Non-fiction is different, I’ll grant, and I think it would be immensely useful for students to have 3D graphics and multiple means of learning information from the same text. I’m certain it would have helped me in my college chemistry classes.
All of that said, the article made me think: how do I build a career as an author in the digital age? It’s not as straight-forward as it used to be.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!