In the early part of the last century when TV was first introduced, the format of early TV programs were borrowed directly from their radio predecessor. “Actors” were hired to fill the screen by reading from a visible script. It was only later when people realized there was more to this new medium and began to act out scenes in front of the camera that modern-day TV production took off.
Fast forward to the 90s when music was digitized en mass- First it was RealAudio and then Windows Media. But it wasn’t until Napster, iTunes and more recently MySpace Music came along that it created a whole new way to produce and consume music. Online video went through a similar evolution. In the beginning it was RealVideo and a slew of new companies. Then YouTube came along and created a whole new class of video creators and fundamentally changed the way we watch videos. Blogs, Twitter and other Internet technologies had a similar effect on the newspaper industry.
The trend is clear. When a disruptive force hits an old medium, first the consumption behaviour changes, followed by the production of the content. History is repeating itself for ebooks.
2009 will be remembered as the year ebooks took off. Ebook sales are experiencing over 100% year-to-year growth. E-readers such as Kindle and Sony E-reader are selling like hotcakes. However, the way ebooks are produced has not been very different than that of paper book, which has changed very little since the Victorian era. Here are the steps for how a traditional paper book or ebook is typically produced:
• Author completes a book and finds an agent • The agent finds a publisher who is willing to take the book • The publisher arranges everything, editing, cover design, etc. and delivers the final copy to the printer • The printer prints the books, delivers them to the distributor • The distributor delivers the books to the retailers and sells one to the consumer
As you can imagine, lots of intermediaries and lots of steps involved. The steps are completed in sequence rather than in parallel. Months, if not years, between when the first chapter is written and the book reaching its first reader. The first generation of ebook production just piggy-backs on this process and adds a final step; the delivery of the book in electronic format to ebook distributors.
The production of books is set to change. We at Wattpad coined the term “ebook 2.0” to describe this evolution and have already seen the shift happening. The era of “ebook 2.0” has arrived.
Ebook 2.0 improves on traditional ebooks in the following ways: real-time writing, collaboration between writers and readers, virality and writer empowerment. Ebook 2.0 has the following characteristics:
• Real-time writing: Books are written and edited in real-time, often chapter by chapter. • Collaboration between writers and readers: Readers and writers are constantly interacting; reader feedback often comes in as soon as the first chapter or the prologue is written. Readers can help shape the writing process. • Virality: Books can reach mass readership in very short period time by leveraging word-of-mouth marketing in a way never before possible. • Writer empowerment: Empowering anyone passionate in writing to become a writer.
Writers no longer need to complete the entire book before it is published. In many cases, writers upload a prologue to collect feedback first. The storyline and characters can be fine tuned or even completely modified before the first chapter is even written. The book is then published chapter by chapter. Fans can follow a writer and be notified when a new chapter is available, within minutes it can generate thousands of reads as passionate readers rush to read the new chapter.
This allows writers to generate instant feedback from their readers, which brings us to the next point ….
Collaboration between writers and readers
Because the book is written in real-time, unlike traditional ebooks or paper books, writers can collect feedback directly from readers as the book is being written. In addition, not only can readers participate in the editing process, they can also see their feedback affect the writing process. In fact, the storyline evolves continuously based on what the readers have to say. Readers can comment and discuss the latest chapter with the author or other fans and even suggest a plot twist or an ending if they choose. Ivan Yuen, one of Wattpad’s co-founders, sent feedback to the author of the book “The War Against Them – Battlefields” (http://www.wattpad.com/175879-The-War-Against-Them-Battlefields) and he was “rewarded” by being cast as one of the characters in the final chapter of the story!
Unlike traditional ebook, ebook 2.0 is no longer a self-contained entity. As a book is created, it has the ability to “push” updates using most popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Readers interact with the “live” ebook and their interactions such as comments and votes appear on their social networks. It can help interesting new reads to spread virally. The following two writers (http://www.wattpad.com/user/Just-Krissy and http://www.wattpad.com/user/DamN623) are very good examples of successfully using Wattpad as a social network to promote her works. Their latest titles both generated over 300,000 reads within a couple of months. Their readership exceeds many traditional best-selling titles. Note that the second profile belongs to a young female writer from the tiny country of Brunei. Without “ebook 2.0”, it would have been very difficult for her to generate this level of readership around the world.
According to R.R. Bowker’s Books in Print database, in 2008, 276,489 books were published traditionally in the U.S. Today, monthly uploads on Wattpad are in excess of 20,000 and the number is accelerating. This year the number of titles published on Wattpad should exceed that of traditional publishing as a whole. This is a direct result of empowering authors to publish their work for free with complete editorial and copyright control. Just as YouTube created a whole new class of video makers, ebook 2.0 is creating a whole new class of writers.
Ebook 2.0 is changing both the self-publishing and traditional book publishing landscape in a significant way. We are seeing the beginning of a new kind of book creation and a new way for readers to consume it. Its overall impact is not yet understood; but looking at the way similar shifts have affected other media, we should not underestimate its potential disruptiveness. We are very excited to be at the forefront of this development and to help write the next chapter in this story.
Written by Allen Lau, Co-founder of Wattpad.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by /3.0/
Founded in 2006, Wattpad’s vision is to revolutionize the way people publish and read written works. The material on Wattpad is created by the community of users. Anyone can publish what they have written – a romantic story, a fan fiction, poetry or a novel – and read by anyone. All the content can be easily accessed on Wattpad’s website (www.wattpad.com), mobile site (m.wattpad.com) or through the Wattpad application that supports over 1,000 phone models including Nokia, BlackBerry, Apple iPhone, Google Android, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, LG, Sharp, Sanyo and more.
Wattpad has experienced explosive growth since its inception. Wattpad is now the world’s most popular ebook community where readers and writers discover, share and connect, delivering billions of pages from its library of over 200,000 ebooks created by the community. Wattpad generates more than 3.5M visits and 30M page views per month from its websites. With over 4 million downloads, Wattpad is also the most widely used mobile ebook application in the world.