Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Xerox . . .

As I glance around my home office, the printer/scanner blinks at me. I can remember when making a photocopy seemed close to a miracle. One of my first jobs involved loading paper into the massive Xerox printer that took up its own room. I had to fan the paper just so to avoid a jam, and God help me if I made a mistake and printed too many copies. That paper was expensive! And back-to-back copying? Binding?

Now I can tap dance my way over to any number of PODs or e-readers or even behemoth and wearing the proverbial robe and bunny slippers, use my computer to order books, essays, articles, delivered by paper or paperless. The death of libraries is predicted. Not by me. I have far too many books (and several library cards) to believe one day the brick-and-mortar library will disappear. At least, not before I do.

But the real issue for writers (and for me) is understanding how this fabulous technology affects the publishing industry. Over the last several years, we've gone from raised eyebrows and sniffs over self-publishing to a rapidly growing market that big names now enter.

As Rick Bylina says, we have to do it all. Draft, write, edit, polish, edit, and then, if that were not daunting enough, find an agent. Or, today, maybe not. The brass ring calls. Does it mean I can write the book and then design the cover, proofread the bloody thing at least two or three more times, (by this time, wouldn't I hate nearly every word?), and evaluate which company could best 'publish' my book? And then, as if the next book were not calling me back to my computer, then, wouldn't I need to worry about distribution, marketing, and perhaps the most difficult of all -- self-promotion? And not just worry but actually (sigh) treat my writing as a business? When most days I'm thrilled to just keep writing?

Forgive the rant. I know that these various computer-driven technologies will continue to transform writers and how we write. I can't just say it's all the fault of Xerox. Or was that Xerxes?

This letter in cuneiform was sent to the King of Lagash, to tell him his son died in battle (about 2400  BCE) (source Wikipedia). A librarian at the Philadelphia Library Rare Books Department once brought out such a tablet carefully preserved in a tiny box. Parts of this tablet had crumbled to dust, for people once touched the tablet. Perhaps paper books will be like that one day, preserved in museums, accessible only online.


  1. I always wonder that...where are were gonna end up next? So much has changed already...I can see books being artifacts years and years from now that people will have to be very careful with. There are already some books like that out there. Awesome post!

  2. Very thought-provoking and informative article, Beth. I'd rather not predict where the future lies in this way--just live the moment. However, my mind has other ideas as it works out scenarios of a future fifteen years hence for my next book.

  3. H Beth. It is amazing how time changes things. Lately, it seems that the changes are happening so fast...industry changing. Hope I can keep up with everything. When I got my first computer, I had no idea we'd be so linked in with other writer and have such knowledge at our fingertips. It's a lot of changes, but good changes.