What will publishing look like in 10 years?
Part of the fun of writing a dystopian science fiction series (Sunset Chronicles, coming soon — join my mailing list to keep informed) is trying to play futurist, casting yourself as some kind of wise sage of humanity’s future. You know, instead of as a middle aged man sat at a kitchen table hunched over a laptop. While I’m doing this my self-image morphs into Johnny Lee Miller in Hackers, surrounded by code and cool music while Angelina Jolie pouts somewhere in the corner.
One thing I don’t get to look at much is what’s going to happen to the wonderful world of books. You don’t tend to get much sitting around and reading books inside of a book, although I’m sure there’s a few exceptions to that, before you go all keyboard warrior at me. So, since I’m also a total nerd about indie publishing and the future of this wonderful world of books, I got to wondering – what will the world of book publishing look like in ten years? What? I’m not procrastinating, you’re procrastinating.
Broadly speaking, I reckon it’s going to go one of three ways.
Way No 1. Since we’re talking ten years, let’s look back ten years ago and try and extrapolate forward. 2009. Well, Indie publishing wasn’t really a thing, audiobooks only came on cd or tape, dinosaurs still roamed freely across the planet, and nobody knew what the hell a Jackfruit was. So if we take that as a curve line, we can extrapolate that in ten years everyone will have all of their entertainment beamed directly into their retinas, books will be downloaded into your heads within seconds like when Neo learns Kung Fu in The Matrix, and we will be surrounded by jackfruits, which will have become the sole and singular foodstuff of the human race.
Way No 2. If Way No 1 looks on a fixed timeline of progress, Way No 2 operates on the alternative axis. Given the absolute clusterfudge humanity is making of the challenge of climate change – preferring to whittle its last decade of potential solution voting endlessly on Brexit and electing despots who use language that would make Joseph Goebbels say ‘steady on there, mate’ – the only chance we might have to read books in ten years is when we’re sitting on stacks of them in abandoned libraries, huddled over burning piles of said literature as we warm our hands against perpetual winter. Wait, no, that’s the plot of The Day After Tomorrow, isn’t it?
Okay, well how about this: We will be buried under avalanches of AI-generated content, produced at such rates as to ensure the only ones who can keep up will be other AI. Sentient programmes will roam the streets, loudly declaring to each other the virtues of the seventy millionth volume of the book of 0010101101, as we mortals cower in fear at having to hear another seventeen hour piece of exposition, gnawing on unripened jackfruits as tears stream down our soot-blackened faces.
Way No 3. We are ten years in the future. People still read books, and people still write books. Some people consume them in paper, some digitally. Some publish their own work, and some publish through others. People are still elitist snobs, and some are still fanatical about work that has no claim over such rabid devotion. Films are still made of books. Books are still made of films. There may be new ways to consume entertainment, and some people will decry these as the death of the written word. The written word will continue, and people will continue to enjoy the written word. There will still be bloody jackfruits everywhere, though. I tell you now, those things are going to be EVERYWHERE.
Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores. You can get the first book free by joining my mailing list or read along at Wattpad. Oh, and I’ve got a Patreon. Sign up for free books, a free weekly short story, and much more.