5 key things we learned at Digital Book World 2019

New trends in audiobooks, voice recognition, interactive storytelling, and more.

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The publishing industry traveled to Nashville, Tennessee last week for Digital Book World (DBW), a three-day deep dive into the “wide world of publishing” and its future. And the world of publishing at DBW was indeed wide: the Big 5, libraries, indie authors, university presses, tech companies, and more were all in attendance at the event. Here are the five key takeaways that authors need to know as we move forward into a new decade in publishing.

Voice on the rise…

Nearly a quarter of Americans own smart speakers, according to voicebot.ai. That’s a reach of 57.8 million people, and content creators are taking note: Simon & Schuster released the Stephen King Library, an Alexa skill that personalizes recommendations for King novels based on how the user responds to a set of questions. The Magic Door is a choose-your-own-adventure style of storytelling game, where users can navigate an imaginary fantasy land with Alexa as a guide. My Box of Chocolates offers a collection of narrated short stories (under 2 minutes) to users based around a common theme. After the story is read aloud, Alexa asks the listener a yes-or-no question based on the story the listener has just heard.

Obviously, where there’s an opportunity for storytellers, there’s an opportunity for writers. But creating for interactive stories requires careful consideration of both technical constraints and the listener’s experience, as yes-or-no or this-or-that questions are more feasible in voice recognition than open-ended ones. The listener should feel engaged and interested in the narrative rather than frustrated or underwhelmed by a limited story progression.

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