Traveling Through the Digital Landscape (Part 1)

Emma Dryden spoke at the 2011 LA SCBWI Conference and gave a very in depth talk about how the digital marketplace is changing the business of books. I took so many notes I’ve had to break this into two posts. Part one will cover how kids interact with technology and fiction, how this is influencing the business, and some of the key factors that have changed the landscape. Part two will look into how the book business is adapting and the challenges it’s facing to stay competitive, as well as some of the new models that are surfacing due to self publishing. This is a big hot topic and Dryden was very thorough! Enjoy.

Dryden pre-empted this talk with a reminder that we should never forget that story matters most!

Kids and Technology:

  • The landscape of technology is a place kids know intrinsically.
  • Paper is not something kids are used to interacting with.
  • Most children are media consumers by the time they are one year old.
  • Kids are not linear.
  • Kids brains have adapted to a digital dialect.

How Interaction with Digital Technology is Changing the Way We Read and Acquire Information:

  • In the absence of bursts of stimulation we now get bored faster.
  • The way we read is different and changing. How we interact with an object is changing.
  • The internet creates a whole new area of narrative. One people can explore and drive.
  • It’s become more important for one to know how to search for a fact, rather than to know the fact itself.
  • Does heavy technology use diminish empathy, whereas fiction creates empathy?

Our Connection to Fiction:

  • Our experience of fiction is based on: literacy, imagination, and human connection.
  • Fiction allows us to think for the sake of thinking.

How is the Book Business Changing?

  • The digital world is changing the book business and we had better adapt!
  • Print is not going away for the sake of digital, but we are moving to a model that uses both.
  • It pays to be flexible and on time when it comes to this new digital landscape.
  • Some smaller publishers are taking the e-only option and no longer printing books.
  • Libraries need to become more like Lady Ga Ga and less like Lady Bird Johnson.
  • Technology should not or need not drive a story.
  • Storytellers and illustrators are our best guides as to how the landscape is changing and how it should change.

Things that Changed the Game:

  • Apple created the iPhone in 2007
  • Amazon came out with the Kindle in 2007. Currently there are 15 million kindles in the hands of consumers.
  • The recession hit us hard and created more start-ups.
  • The e-book battles began.

Things that Continue to Change the Game and Influence the Market:

  • In 2010 the Sony Walkman was retired.
  • Apple baked the iPie and wants to eat it too.
  • The expanding book market changed to create less cost book production through digital sources. (Less cost not NO cost).
  • E-Books are everywhere! It is estimated that 50% of book sales will be E-Books by 2014.
  • What’s your app-titude? Apps are changing the market as well.
  • Pottermore is influencing and changing business models.
  • We are easily distracted by new devices.

What about Picture Books and the Digital Market?

  • Picture books do still matter! And they still are selling. Electronic media should not be a threat to picture books, it should be a supplement!

Stay Tuned for Part Two:

  • In part two, Dryden brings up issues of Agents becoming publishers, self publishing, new business challenges, and customer choice.

Emma D. Dryden began her career in children’s publishing in 1986 as an Editorial Assistant at Random House Children’s Books. She was then hired as Associate Editor for the legendary Margaret K. McElderry, whose eponymous imprint was a part of Macmillan Children’s Books, and was later named Senior Editor of the imprint. After McElderry retired, Emma was made Vice President, Editorial Director, and in 2005, Vice President, Publisher of Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Margaret K. McElderry Books, imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, a position she held until May 2009.

Over the course of Emma’s career she’s edited nearly five-hundred books for children and young readers, ranging in format from board books and picture books to poetry anthologies, novelty books, non-fiction, middle grade fiction, and YA/teen fiction and fantasy. As publisher, she oversaw the annual publication of more than one-hundred hardcover and paperback titles. Authors and illustrators whom Emma has edited include Ellen Hopkins, Karma Wilson, Susan Cooper, Alan Katz, David Catrow, Raul Colon, Shelia P. Moses, Marjorie Priceman, Lee Bennett Hopkins, David Diaz, and Paul Zelinsky.

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2 thoughts on “Traveling Through the Digital Landscape (Part 1)

  1. this is wonderful to read…wish I coud have heard Emma speak. She’s a special one…bright,caring, and I consider her an industry friend. You were honored to have her I’m sure! can’t wait till the next part…..:)

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