The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread?

Guest Post by Teddi Deppner

We are really pleased to have Teddi Deppner be our guest today. I first met Teddi at the Mt. Hermon Writers Conference while she sat through my Major Morning Track, listening patiently to 8 1/2 hours of lecture over four days. She has recently been asking some penetrating questions about technology and the publishing industry so I invited her to create a post and express those thoughts for your discussion.

Teddi Deppner has published hundreds of websites over the last 15+ years in her work as a professional web designer, marketer and consultant. Recently, she has launched on a quest to map out simple, effective strategies to share with creative people using the Internet and social media for their business. Find her latest projects at


Thanks to Steve for the opportunity to share some thoughts with his audience. This post, intended primarily to open a lively discussion, was sparked by an article by Craig Mod about “Post-Artifact Book Publishing”.

Craig’s essay presents the idea that books have traditionally been artifacts: the concrete, physical products of an author. He diagrams the process and participants in the creation, publishing and distribution of this artifact and how things are changing now that books have become more than static artifacts.

The part that fascinates me is his observation that the digital age of publishing isn’t really about taking “the book” (a frozen collection of specific words and images) and simply copying it into some readable digital format. Instead, we now face the opportunity to take our idea and shape it into an unlimited number of formats: printed book, web page or online community, e-books of varying flavors, interactive and/or animated digital presentation, video, and yes – much, much more.

So many choices these days! Are you tempted to ignore them until the dust settles? Don’t think those choices apply to your “book”?

Think again.

What’s a Book, Anyway?

Craig Mod’s article is worth reading in detail, and every time I read it the implications multiply. A provocative and key concept I keep returning to:

To think about the future of the book is to think about the future of all content.

Books weren’t static because that’s the best way for a person to express an idea to the world but because it was the only way we had available to record an idea and spread it beyond our immediate circle of friends.

The printing press transformed the world in very short order. I believe we’re living at the dawn of a similar transformation. The Internet may not be the best thing since sliced bread, but I would argue it’s the best thing since the printing press!

Today we have available a new means of spreading ideas — and it doesn’t require a static, physical form. The Internet is with us everywhere, as Netbooks, iPads, mobile phones and e-readers like the Kindle are in more and more hands. Five years ago did you imagine you’d be checking your email while waiting at the gas pump? Did you have any idea you would take 20 books on vacation with you and use up less room in your bag than for a single paperback novel?

A New Set of Questions

As an author, as a business person, as an artist, I’m asking myself some new questions:

    • What is the heart of my idea?
    • Is it best expressed in a static form, or is it rather at its heart a conversation that should begin somewhere and then dynamically grow and evolve?
    • Who is looking for an idea just like this one and how do I reach them?

I’m exploring new “best ways” to convey a story:

    • What length works best? Does my audience want serial episodes or large chunks of completed story arcs at a time?
    • How many illustrations should I include and what should they look like? Pure text novel or completely graphic novel?
    • Should I attach music or record an audio version?
    • Should I offer multiple versions of this story, rated for content along the same lines as movies?

These things are fun to think about, but the most urgent missing piece for me as a creative person making a living producing this content is the business model.

    • How do I turn what’s in my head into cash in my pocket?
    • What is the payment model? What is the distribution model?
    • Who do I need to partner with to make it happen?
    • How many different successful partnerships can I create with collaborators? (writer + filmmaker, writer + artist, writer + writer, and stick some editors in there all over the place because we need QUALITY, people!)

Making Sandwiches That Sell

Okay, so we’ve got all this sliced bread. Now what do we do with it?

Many authors are offering free content as bait to gather their target audience into position and sell them paid content. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Will this model last? Is it sustainable?

And who decides what content is worth paying for? Where do the curators (see Steve’s post on curation) fit in? I can imagine a day when I pay a publisher not for printing a book but instead for a list of vetted, quality content providers directly matched to my preferences.

Although even the average “Joe Reader” is aware that things are changing, he’s ignorant of the full implications. He just goes along, doing what he’s always done, right? His assumptions and prejudice and habits based on a lifetime of traditional consumption of books and movies and music are still mostly intact.

Or are they?

As big entertainment companies change how other forms of content are delivered and paid for (music, TV episodes and movies), what is already changing in the minds of our target consumer? How have your content buying habits changed in the past five years?

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! At the risk of mixing the metaphor, let’s say this post itself is a slice of freshly baked bread. Help me butter it. Throw on some jam. Go ahead and toast it, if that’s your thing.

Post a comment sharing how you read your books, check your news, get new ideas. Tell me what you’re willing to pay for and what you’d rather enjoy for free. I’d especially like your ideas on the most exciting content you’ve purchased recently and what kinds you wish were available but can’t find anywhere.



3 Responses to The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread?

  1. Peter DeHaan July 11, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    Just as the printing press revolutionized communicatiosn some five centuries ago, the Internet will have an even more profound effect on communications today (far beyond what is presently visible).

    The fact that books no longer need to be static presents tremendous opportunities for both authors and their readers.

    Along with the idea of a non-static book (that is, a dynamic book) is the concept of a “networked book,” which I have recently stumbled upon and am most intrigued with. This is something that I hope to pursue in the future (in my spare time!).

  2. Regina Jennings July 11, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    I’m wondering how this compares to the industrial revolution. We had cottage industries where everyone produced unique, individualized crafts, and those lost out to cheaper, standardized products. Now many are returning to the artisan model.

    Individuals are more likely to experiment than corporations, so I think we can look forward to new venues of expression, but quality will always be a factor. More freedom and more options for the artists means greater risk for the consumer.

  3. John Sleeper September 17, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    I really like the idea of all the different media available for books. Since my eyes are getting worse my days of reading 3 to 4 books simultaneously have vanished. I am now almost completely engaged with audio books. I just wish more were available for my iPod.

    My wife may laugh at me when she sees me with the iPod strapped to my arm and my headphones on my ears but though I had to give up reading multiple books at the same time I can now read & cook at the same time. I love it! And I will put all my books out in this format as well — as soon as I get them written.

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