Writers and the changing digital landscape


Turn and face the strange


Oh, look out you rock ‘n’ rollers

(Songwriter: David Bowie)

Exciting times

It is an exhilarating but confusing time to be a writer. There is a wider range of possibilities for getting published than ever before (including starting your own blog), but it is hard to know which to choose.

The publishing industry is trying to change its shape, in order to find a way to operate within the digital age. Writers wonder how they might still make a living. Copyright is being re-examined by the government and the lawyers. In other areas such as music and photography, we see innovations such as Spotify and Flickr’s Creative Commons, trying to work out ways to share creative works freely but fairly.

There are theories as to how the collaborative, open source, file-sharing, egalitarian nature of the digital age will evolve even further.

Many new innovations and writing ‘platforms’ are being dreamed up and designed every day, from Kindle to phone apps, and it is fascinating to keep track of them, on websites such as The Literary Platform.

More questions than answers

Here are some of the questions that are in my mind at the moment:

  • How can we best use the new platforms and formats that are arising from this rapid digital (r)evolution?
  • How can we make sure that writing evolves as a natural extension of the literary paths taken by those who have written before us? How can we keep their spirits as inspirational beacons, giving us a sense of our context as writers?
  • How can we make sure that editing finds its place within the new digital writing environments, in a way that supports beautiful, elegant, easy to understand writing, but does not restrict the freedom of all who want to contribute?
  • Will the digital platforms maintain their trend towards bite-sized, topic-based writing, or can we weave in some more contemplative, complex content, for those who enjoy getting into the detail of an argument, or who enjoy stories that unravel slowly and have many layers? Or is that sort of writing better suited to traditional-format books, even if they are read on electronic book-readers?

I hope to write more about these questions in future posts. For now, I would be interested to hear from those of you out there who may also be wondering about these sorts of things.


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