The Technology Tsunami, Franschhoek Literary Festival, 11 May 2012.
The eighth event of the Franschhoek Literary Festival kicked off in the Church Hall on one of the most stunning autumn mornings of the season. The nearly full house consisted of a generally older crowd, with a scattering of high school girls and a number of journalists.
I looked around and wondered how technologically savvy this crowd might be, and on further inspection noticed a large number of iPads, iPhones and Kindle readers. There was an undoubted interest, then, in the topic of technology, and the presenters proved no strangers to the themes at hand. Arthur Goldstuck, journalist, media analyst and commentator on ICT technologies, and Simon Dingle, technology guru or rather “technology pundit”, as he likes to describe himself, were the resident experts.
They began by exploring how the “technology tsunami”, a phenomenal change in consumer technology, has affected users and buyers. There was consolation for those who cannot keep up to date with the nearly daily advances as Goldstuck reassured the audience how scary these changes can sometimes be. Dingle and Goldstuck undertook to demystify this “tsunami”.
The first topic on the agenda was the issue of self-publishing, as the shift in publishing from more traditional modes to e-publishing came under discussion. According to Goldstuck and Dingle, this has been one of the greatest periods of change in the business of publishing, with the e-book now commanding an enormous amount of attention and space.
E-books can be published in at least three various forms online, namely as a Kindle version, an iBook version or in “publish on demand” form. With so many self-publishing options available to new writers, various factors need to be taken into consideration.
The topic shifted to the recent first print edition of Dingle and Goldstuck’s new book. This project remains incomplete owing to their being “hopeless at planning anything”. As their book was proudly held up to the audience, they discoursed upon its poorly chosen current title, with the inclusion of “2011” making it instantly dated. They explained that the book was being reprinted, with a more appealing front cover and a new title, Destination: Future.
Dingle and Goldstuck’s venture into the arena of self-publishing constituted much of the rest of the conversation. As they talked about their book, soon to be available in an e-book version, they became more animated and enthusiastic. The book, which covers one and a half years of technology change, was brought about using the platform CreateSpace, a service launched by Amazon. Explaining that their project was an experiment gave the speakers a lot of legroom to manoeuvre around various issues and challenges facing self-publishers.
The speakers posed a number of questions to which they gave tentative answers. They asked how exactly an author enters the world of self-publishing, where much uncertainty and many challenges immediately arise. Quality is an issue, and it received due attention, with Dingle explaining that quality remains the differentiating factor
in publishing. It is quality which separates a brilliant writer from the plethora of average writers out there. Peer-reviewing, blogging, ownership and licensing all formed part of the conversation that followed, in addition to of packaging, typesetting and choice of font.
After nearly forty minutes of conversation and general banter, the presenters asked the audience if they had any questions. I was pleasantly surprised when the majority of questions came from people who were intimately involved in the literary field. Publishers, editors, authors and public commentators all posed questions. A genuine sense of concern was palpable in several of the questions, with one editor explaining that to have a professional editor check your work could set you back by at least R15,000. And, Goldstuck added, abusing your friends to get edited on the side was not the way to go.
Dingle and Goldstuck drew strong connections between the “technology tsunami” and publishing. To add to the technological vibe of the event, the presenters kept checking their live Twitter feeds and responding to questions posed by the audience via the Twitter platform. I felt that the presenters were able to demonstrate their passion for technology in a confident manner, all the while keeping the topic light and refreshing.