Let’s Get Digital

I was chair at a talk on digital publishing today, in Navan Library. It was part of their Readers and Writers Day and I was joined by Georgina Byrne from South  Dublin County Libraries (who are running Ireland’s first online library service), Robert Hughes from Ulverscroft (publishers who specialize in Large Print and Audio Books) and Samantha Holman from the Irish Copyright and Licensing Agency, (possibly the only person in Ireland who really understands what Google are trying to do to the publishing world). Due to highly ironic technology difficulties, we started late. My laptop wouldn’t connect to their web, their laptop couldn’t read my USB key and my laptop couldn’t read another key that we tried. A perfect illustration of why books aren’t going anywhere just yet.

I made things worse by starting off speaking like a DVD on fast forward because I was conscious of the lost time, resulting in some very bemused faces in the audience. It ended up being a very interesting discussion in the end though. For those who don’t know much about the panic caused by the Google Library Project and the digital publishing revolution in general, see the pieces I’ve written in the Articles Section of my website, or my article in the upcoming issue of Inis magazine. Suffice to say that storytelling text is going the same way as music and films and we need to be ready for it.

Libraries are a perfect place for this to start happening. Kids come in to use the computers as much as they do the books, audio books have been available there for ages, you have helpful staff on hand to guide you through what’s there and libraries offer the only places in most towns and cities where a comfortable social space can be combined with facilities and expertise and all with a community ethic. And you don’t have to BUY anything to sit down.

This is a time to transform our libraries, not starve them of funding. They can be used to show how serious this country is about investing in our kids’ futures and the ‘smart economy’ the government keeps harping on about.

Got to hear a frank and entertaining talk by Trish Wylie, a writer for Mills & Boon. Yes, Mills & Boon. If ever there was a publisher that knew how to sell books, it’s them. And they’re investing heavily in ebooks – most of their range will be available online soon. And if my other genres ever stop providing me with a living, you might see me going all ‘Love Actually’ and starting to write romances for a living. It’s the biggest selling genre in the world. Lads, that says a lot about our lack of appetite for reading. Mind you, we do like instruction manuals and they normally don’t get sold on their own, so they don’t get counted. Maybe if we read more romances, we’d figure out how women’s minds were put together. RTFM and all that. But probably not.

On Friday, I’m off to Dingle to teach a writing course for the weekend. Suppose I’d better go an figure out what I’m going to say to them . . .

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