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Is Paperback Extinction Looming? Reading and Writing in the Transition Era

If books in traditional book form die, it's not the end of the world

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      • They Do It With Pictures

   For my own part, I'm not all that aware of a lot of new novels by new writers appearing on the web - but that may reflect my own tastes. One thing I have noticed however, is that the visual nature of the web allows people creating illustrated works a  much lower barrier to getting 'published' and seen.  Scott McCloud is both a practicing and theoretical cartoonist, who has given a lot of thought to  the infinite canvas of digital media and the web. (He's also put out some thought-provoking  dead tree books on the subject.)

       For McCloud and others, the internet is not just about what the technology offers, it's also about past history and current economics in the dead tree publishing world.  Scott McCloud and others attempted to formulate a  Creators Bill of Rights. It's impact is debatable, but it does illuminate the issues. The Internet has attracted cartoonists in large numbers in part because of a long history of  creators getting seriously shafted by publishers.

       There's plenty of new cartooning talent that will never make it into your local newspaper - if you still have one - simply because there is only so much space available, and for a newbie to break in, it usually means an old favorite must be sacrificed. Or comics just disappear altogether. (Again, see  Tom Tomorrow.) Moving to the internet isn't just about opportunity. In some cases it's about survival.

        Nonetheless, some creators are finding ways to prosper.There's some amazing work to be found out there. (Also some pretty awful stuff - but that's Sturgeon's Law for you.) Call them graphic novels, call them comic books, or comic strips - they're out there, and breaking out of the print-on-paper push-through-stores channel is allowing creators to do so pretty amazing stuff, some of which simply wouldn't happen because it'd never find a large enough audience or didn't fit a standard sales category.

    • Creators At Work:

     Several years ago,  Scott Christian Sava embarked on an ambitious web project:  The Dreamland Chronicles. An all ages fantasy in beautiful CGI art,  Sava has already put up over 1300 pages in his ongoing story. He supports his efforts by a combination of ad revenue from people clicking through ads on the TDC homepage,  merchandise sales including books, iPhone apps related to his work, and donations through  Kickstarter. The Dreamland Chronicles isn't everything Sava has going - but it's still a major effort.

     Another on-going saga is  Girl Genius, the story of Agatha Heterodyne struggling to reclaim her heritage and realize her full potential in an alternate universe pretty firmly steam-punk flavored. The story has won  numerous awards for the creative team behind it, and spawned a  merchandising empire of trinkets, books, art work, audio books, and more. Additional income is generated by donate buttons and ads.

        Schlock Mercenary by Howard Tayler follows the adventures of a company of galactic mercenaries in the distant future. It's now Tayler's full time gig. Again, ads, merchandise, book sales, iApps, etc. help keep the home fires burning.

         • They Do It With Words

        One largely word-powered effort I've run across is  The Airship Flying Cloud, by  Paul Gazis. It takes the form of a weekly serial text adventure, with a single illustration. Running for over two years now, it's an engaging slightly tongue in cheek romp through an alternate past:

 
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