3 Ways To Celebrate The Future Of Books

Futurebooking Do you love to talk about publishing innovation but realise that you behaviour as a reader has barely changed? Are you truly creating, or just 'being creative', online? Do you find that the opportunities for writers in social media essentially boil down to shinier and more addictive ways to procrastinate? Ah, Pinterest. Sweet Pinterest and your gleaming cornucopia of aspirational kitchen loft spaces.

I've always been deeply excited about how digital is changing how we write, read, publish and talk about stories, but I am even more excited now the conversation has moved beyond those boring either/or scaremongering polarities. Now that we've established that The Author, Journalism, God and All Hope are Totes Dead, we can get on with talking about the good stuff. Like how and if we are personally, daily, experiencing change. Like which technologies, tools and approaches have genuinely made us more productive, imaginative and skilled.

In short, now that we've accepted that the Queen Mother is going to ride back to earth on a super-asteroid, cackling maniacally as she rips pages from precious old folios and destroys us all in a massive fireball, we can settle down and share the fascinating, fallible, ever-changing paths we are all learning to navigate in our hybrid on-off, augmented-real, socio-introverted world.

Here are three great ways in which that sharing is going to happen this year.


The first is the recent beta launch of The Writing Platform, "a website and program of live events dedicated to arming writers with digital knowledge" founded by two brilliant women, Joanna Ellis (ex-Faber and Simon & Shuster) and Kate Pullinger (writer and Professor of Creative Writing and Digital Media at Bath Spa University) with support from Bath Spa Uni, the National Lottery and Arts Council England.

Not only does it feature a fantastic range of articles, from Margaret Atwood explaining why you need on online presence, to yours truly busting 10 common social media myths for writers, The Writing Platform is offering a bursary which will partner writers and technologists in an attempt to break down barriers and generate some inter-disciplinary magic. This sort of free, energetic and wide-thinking community is just what writers need more of, so visit the site, keep an eye out for events, apply to the bursary and start, well, generating some inter-disciplinary magic.

Second is Write The Future, a one-day micro-conference of creative short talks on the transformative power of science, technology, communication and speculative fiction, coming up in May. Driven by The Arthur C Clarke Award (the prestigious British award presented annually for the best science fiction novel of the year) in association with the Royal Society, it promises to be a stimulating mashup of writers, publishers, scientists, advertisers, trend forecasters and mutli-ilk curious creatives.

I'll be presenting a keynote called Don't Feed The Lizard Brain: Surviving the Social Media Comedown, focusing on three questions which will both examine where we are right now with social media and prompt us to tweak our direction for the future: Are we innovating? Are we connecting? Are we creating? In the evening there will be a dinner and presentation of The Arthur C Clarke Award, which, with recent winners including Jane Rogers, Lauren Beukes and China Miéville, is unfailingly controversial. #WTF13 is currently fundraising on Kickstarter so grab the chance now to scoop some tickets, with some great benefits such as free consultancy and a copy of the award anthology for those who want to dig a little deeper.

Finally, June will see the return of Writing In A Digital Age, the annual two-day conference from The Literary Consultancy, the UK's top specialists in assessing and editing manuscripts. Last year's event was incredibly honest, nuanced and inspiring; I was particularly engaged by the themes of gender in the publishing industryhow to become a happy writer in an uncertain landscape, and the challenges of social media as a self-marketing tool. #TLC13 looks to be even better, with a keynote by Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveller's Wife; a review of the industry over past year with some of the UK's top agents, publishers and journalists; and sessions asking questions such as 'What are ‘literary values’ and how are they being challenged by technology?' and 'Self-publishing off the peg: does one size fit all?'

I'll be one of the speakers taking part in Canon Tales, a short series of rapid-fire presentations from people working in the intersection between literature and digital, alongside the likes of Sam Missingham from The Bookseller/FutureBook and Bill Thompson from the BBC. Early bird tickets, on sale until the end of this month, hover around £2-300, but this event has such an inclusive and questioning outlook, it's worth the investment for anyone interested or invested in the publishing industry.

Of course, all this speculation and rhetoric only comes to life when it touches on people's daily stories and experiences. I'd love to hear about the impact that social media and digital technologies are (or, of course, are not) having on your own behaviour as a reader and a writer. Is all the hype and hyperbole nothing but the ramblings of an Ouroboron industry, nibbling anxiously on its own tail? What are your real hopes, fears and dreams for where innovation around books will take us?

This article originally appeared on Bookhugger.