On April 30, 1939, the New York World’s Fair opened in Flushing Meadow Park in Queens. Apart from typical fairground attractions, such as rides and food, one of the features of Word’s Fairs and other expositions was technology. Of course, what they considered technology back then seems akin to fire-making sticks to us today. A few of the tech advances shown in 1939 were FM radio, a walking, talking robot, fluorescent lighting, and a facsimile machine. The point, though, is that things that were never thought possible suddenly were.That day was also the first day of television broadcasting in New York. People at that time who experienced moving images in a box in their living rooms could not have fathomed cable, videos and DVDs, or streaming TV, much less watching TV on a little flat panel that serves as a telephone. Or watching it while flying on an airplane or riding the subway.Our knowledge today is substantially advanced and we can perhaps imagine new tech in a more limitless way. Nevertheless, we don’t know everything that’s going to come in the future. I’m sure even the most innovative, brilliant minds never foresaw the use of cell phones as not only communication devices, but also as TVs, computers, and…well, everything. I’m sure today’s geniuses cannot conceive of all the things that will be in the future.
So, on the subject of technology, how does this relate to the publishing industry? Well, there are three components: the writing part, the publishing part, and the reading part.
As writers, of course, our lives have been made so much easier by the introduction of consumer computers (computers were around long before everyone had one in their home, but they were massive, expensive machines), and then even more so by the advent of the internet. Then, software began to appear, helping writers to plot, create characters, schedule, and submit. Voice recognition software came around to help the visually impaired write, and even accessibility tools to help the physically impaired. (Hey, just being able to delete and correct without using White-Out or an eraser, or having to retype everything for multiple drafts is AMAZING.)
On the publishing side, digital technology has enabled us to get things instantaneously from one person to another without relying on mail or messengers, which saves enormous amounts of time, and instant uploads to printers’ platforms without supplying what used to be called “camera copy.” Everything about preparing a book has changed, and most of it is time-saving, as well as energy-saving.
Of course, on the reading end, people are reading on their computers, tablets, phones, and even watches, as well as paper. Audiobooks are on the rise, and there’s a finger-mounted reading device for the blind. And while techies have already been talking about being able to read or view shows and movies right inside your brain (Black Mirror, anyone?) for years, we really don’t know what lies ahead. Holograms? Three-D printing of actors to enact the drama in your living room? Who the hell knows?Hey, what if characters can jump out of a book and act out the story right in front of you? Hmm, I don’t know how I’d feel about that. Maybe it would depend on the story. Point is, as we go deeper into the 21st century, more ways to “read” will surely unfold. I guess as long as the stories keep coming, that’s all that matters. Writers will still have to write them, though.
Or will they? There already are programs that write based on information that’s input. To me, that’s kind of like computer-generated actors: they look realistic enough, but there’s something soulless about them. And there’s no celebrity to, well, celebrate. Maybe that’s why the practice hasn’t taken over the industry.
I guess there’s room for both. There has to be. You can’t stop technology.