The Wall Street Journal’s “Speakeasy” blog has an interview with William Gibson, part of a longer piece it will be publishing in the next day or so. This segment focuses on Gibson’s thoughts about the future of book publishing.
Gibson notes that, thanks to Twitter, he is experiencing a larger level of fan engagement than he had been able to previously and finding it “more pleasant” than he had expected. He is also able to get a clearer picture of where the book is being released and when.
He also notes that he doesn’t see the rise of the e-book as the daunting prospect many of his contemporaries do, but doesn’t expect physical books to completely go away, either. And he points out that a lot of the environmental waste associated with modern publishing could be eliminated by the rise of print-on-demand book machines like the Espresso.
My dream scenario would be that you could go into a bookshop, examine copies of every book in print that they’re able to offer, then for a fee have them produce in a minute or two a beautiful finished copy in a dust jacket that you would pay for and take home. Book making machines exist and they’re remarkably sophisticated. You’d eliminate the waste and you’d get your book -– and it would be a real book. You might even have the option of buying a deluxe edition. You could have it printed with an extra nice binding, low acid paper.
I’ve been meaning to read Gibson’s present-day books, Spook Country and Zero History, having heard good things about them. I do find it interesting that essentially co-inventing the cyberpunk genre has given Gibson cred as a futurist, given that he originally based it more on the video games his kids played than on real computers, about which he actually knew very little at the time.
But then, anyone who thinks about the future at all could be called a futurist I suppose. And it does bear thinking about—it’s where we’re going to spend the rest of our lives, after all.