I like baking. I can measure stuff. Sometimes I wield a sharp knife and mercilessly chop things into small bits. The oven emits comforting smells. And when it’s completed its task, I get to indulge in something finished. Complete. Tasty.
Alas, very few things in other realms are so easily contained or rapidly satisfying. Change is one of those. It’s constant. It is necessary to the course of our existence. But how often is change comfortable? Quick? Immediately successful? Toffee-flavored? Not so oft.
As those of us in publishing begin to more openly admit that we’re no longer “in publishing,” per se, but rather in the business of content management, we find ourselves swimming in the vast seas of change. This is not a revelation. You’ve all been aware of these shifts for a long while now. But the reality of this change is a process of self-evaluation. Who are we again? What are we doing? We are no longer making a static product. Technology truly magnifies the fact that information (as it always has been, really) is alive, moving—changing.
We’ve continually found ways by which to capture the best content and means by which to provide a quality, curated piece of information. But to pretend a completed book is the end of the story is to miss the reality: that it is often just one format of many formats that eventually lend themselves to creating a new story elsewhere down the line. It is the beginning of sharing information—not the end of a product lifecycle.
In the realm of school library publishing, we are serving readers who are moving at digital paces with minds that are stronger and faster than ours. (Yes, that is true.) Students need relevant material in a timely manner and through many different formats. They need those information beginnings. Those of us in the midst of change still need to deliver the goods. But faster. And through multiple mediums.
And does format really matter when it comes to good content? I suspect it doesn’t. If I’m reading poor writing online, I don’t print it out with the notion that reading it on paper will improve its palatability. The inverse it true as well: poor writing on paper doesn’t improve on a screen.
The essence of shepherding quality content remains unchanged at its core. To that point, book production and baking have a lot in common. With the former, you’re essentially gathering the content ingredients provided by authors, photo researchers, illustrators, and the like and shaping them into something (hopefully) easily digestible and satiating. With the latter, you know a muffin recipe will yield muffins. But with a recipe for good content, it can yield so much more than just a book.