Publishing trends & key takeaways from Digital Book World 2018

Both traditional and indie authors walked away with plenty of information about the future of publishing at DBW18.



Incorporating audio technology in publishing

A particularly hot topic at Digital Book World was the use of voice recognition technology in publishing. One big advantage lies in easier bookselling: Users can ask Alexa, Google Assistant, etc. about an author’s book, listen to an excerpt, and then purchase the book in mere seconds. (At one panel, attendees watched Andrew Wamberg from Google Cloud do exactly this with the Ingram skill in about 15 seconds flat. “Your order will be delivered tomorrow,” promised the virtual assistant. Talk about making buying books easy, eh?)

It’s also an opportunity for authors to create a personalized concierge experience for readers, such as the Stephen King Library skill, which asks users a set of questions and then recommends relevant King titles based on the answers provided (and offers excerpts, too). In the future, authors may have the ability to expand their fictional worlds via AI: Readers could ask their favorite characters questions or explore a fictional world like Hogwarts or Gotham via choose-your-own-adventure content.

Granted, in the near future, these options are probably limited to powerhouse authors like King or J.K. Rowling. But other writers could use AI to get their stories in front of a larger audience. Platforms like Tellables offer fiction to Google Assistant or Amazon Echo users and reward authors who write with audio in mind. That said, without taking on the time & expense of hiring a narrator – the top reason why many indie authors choose to not pursue the audiobook route – certain writing techniques work better than others when read in an automated voice. Dialogue, for example, can fall flat when read by Alexa or Siri. Humor would also prove difficult, although we can imagine witty writers intentionally using an automated voice’s robotlike vocal tendencies for comic effect.

As mentioned previously, the technology also lends itself well to choose-your-own-adventure stories: “You’re standing in an abandoned house facing a dark hallway and a set of creaking stairs. Which path would you like to go down?” a virtual assistant might ask. Someone has to write this content, which means someone would be willing to pay writers to create this content as it becomes more popular. We imagine it’d be a pretty fun gig for freelancers, and it’d require you to stretch your fiction-writing skills and think about storytelling in a completely different way.

Overall, we already know audio is an essential tool for getting content to readers (see: audiobook sales). In the future, we’ll have to ask ourselves how auditory technology can not only help us find new readers but expand our storytelling capabilities as well.

Originally Published