Beyond the Page: Writing in the Digital Age

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These authors talk about technology, and how it's influenced their work.

These authors talk about technology, and how it’s influenced their work.

: Nick Eskey

Ever since the creation of the printing press, authors finally had an avenue to get their works out into the world. But it wasn’t until the creation of moving pictures that authors had another venue for their work aside from their printed forms. A book had the chance to find itself on the big screen, creating new revenues and reaching audiences that may have never read their work. It changed the possibilities again.

The advent of the digital age has yet again added possibilities, as these authors discussed during Beyond the Page panel this year at Comic-Con. James Frey (Endgame), Chris Weitz (The Young World), James Dashner (Maze Runner & The Rule of Thoughts), Andrew Kaplan (Homeland), Fred Van Lente (Make Comics Like Pros), James Silvani (Draw-a-sauras), and Melissa De La Cruz (Ring and the Crown) all shared how technology had affected their work. James Frey remembered when the first iPad was introduced. “I was awed. Thought it would great to have this thing that allowed people to watch movies and surf the web on the go.” Since then, he wanted to use everything he could to promote his work. “Now we have twitter feeds, youtube feeds… All these tools for the toolbox let’s me reach and tell more to readers.”

Not too long ago, industries that dealt with physical mediums like books or comics had “thoughts of doom and gloom,” as James Dashner said. “They thought technology would replace them. But now the book industry has more readers than ever.” He also pointed out that with ebooks, readers have the option to get enhanced experiences that never have been available to them before.

In regards to ebooks, Melissa De La Cruz did agree that she’s seen printed books affected. But other things like social media has offered a surprising support to the printed realm. “I’ve seen websites like Tumblr have helped to spark paper book groups… There’s even groups out there that share recipes based on their favorite books.”

Technology can even work hand-in-hand with books to create a larger, more immersive experience. James Frey himself said how he’s currently working on a series that will span 3 books, 35 novellas, and a video game that will be made by Google. “The books themselves will be the core,” he said. “And in each book there will be puzzles that will lead to real world prizes.” But if you’re not interested in the extras, they are not necessary to understand the books. “They will be just another option.”

But with all the options now at authors disposal, it can become confusing on how to use them properly. “With social media and tech, you have to be careful to not make them a gimmick,” said Fred Van Lente. “It’s a fine line. If you enjoy doing it, I think it’s what [would] keep it from being a gimmick. If you are told to, or feel like you have to, then it becomes one.” And as James Frey added, “Books are entirely self contained. The extras are optional, and for you to enjoy if you want to.”

Ultimately, books are what they are. Authors can take their books and morph them into more using today’s tech. But there’s still a balance that should be kept when using them. Because after all, as one panelist said, “It’s a book, and ultimately you have to live and die as a book.”

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