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The End of the World As We Know It

by Richard Mabry

How many of you thought the world would end on December 21, 2012? Since the Mayan calendar only went that far, there were dire predictions that the world as we know it would grind to a halt on that date. But surprisingly enough (or maybe not so surprisingly), the sun came up on December 22, and things were “business as usual.”

Think back to December 31, 1999. Did you believe there would be mass chaos when the calendar rolled over to “Y2K?” Would the computers rise up and stop all commerce, end phone communication, silence TV (which might not be such a bad thing)? But things went right along, and here we are, over 13 years later.

Is the world of publishing about to come to an end? Printing with movable type existed in Korea for about a hundred years before Gutenberg introduced his printing press in 1440. What do you think all the scribes were saying about that time? Probably something like, “This new technology won’t make any difference. People want to hold scrolls in their hands. They want to see the fine workmanship that only our penmanship can produce.” Eventually, a lot of scribes were out of work, but not the ones who recognized that change was coming and started looking for jobs as printer’s apprentices.

In the few years I’ve been involved in writing, I’ve seen some dramatic changes in the publishing industry. For example, publishers no longer accept manuscripts “over the transom”-agents have become gatekeepers, as well as representatives, adding one more hurdle for as-yet-unpublished writers. Dissatisfaction and frustration have made many of them turn to self-publication. The ready availability of E-publishing has added accelerant to the flames. Truly, as Bob Dylan sang, “the times they are a-changin’.”

You may be asking, “Do these changes signal the end of publishing as we know it?” My answer is, “Maybe-but that doesn’t mean publishing is dead.” Although things have changed and will continue to do so, I predict that future generations will still need writers-more and better writers-along with people who are expert at getting the material into the hands of readers. Exactly what form that will take is unclear at this time. But it’s certainly not a signal to wring our hands, stop writing, and say, “The sky is falling.” It’s a signal to adapt and keep writing.

I confess that my attitude once mirrored the one voiced by obsessive-compulsive TV detective Adrian Monk: “I don’t mind change. I just don’t like being around when it happens.” Of course, that show is now off the air, and its star is voicing video games and doing bit parts in TV movies. He’s adapted to change. How about you?

Richard Mabry 2
Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the author of four published novels of medical suspense. His books have been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award and Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year. His last novel, Lethal Remedy, won a 2012 Selah Award from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. His next medical thriller, Stress Test (Thomas Nelson), will be published in April of this year, to be followed by Heart Failure in October.

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8 Responses to The End of the World As We Know It

  1. Ron Estrada says:

    We really can’t control the direction that publication takes. But we can control how we respond to it. Writers that don’t embrace the new era of electronic media, social networking, etc. will find themselves left behind. Every generation of writers has had to deal with some sort of change. Ours is no different. We keep writing, which is the un-changing portion of the program, then learn how to work within the new rules of the game.

  2. Camille Eide says:

    Thank you, Richard, for a timely reminder to gear up to embrace chance rather than become frustrated and resist. The possibilities seem endless, only time will tell what publishing will look like in 10 or 20 years. You’re right, there will always be the need for wordsmiths who communicate well. And the world will never tire of story. As long as we stay open to the mediums delivering the stories, we may just be surprised at the opportunities opening up to us.

  3. Thanks, Ron and Camille. Change is hard. Not adapting to it is harder.

  4. Michelle Lim says:

    Great post, Richard. Truth is, we have to adapt to change or we will go the way of the dinosaurs. Change is a challenge and sometimes exciting, but regardless of the way we feel, Change is life. That doesn’t mean I don’t dig my toes in once in a while.

  5. Sue Harrison says:

    Such great advice, Richard. Change is hard, but also exciting. Without change there are no new adventures and no new opportunties! Thank you for the interesting and thought-provoking blog post!

  6. Thanks to each of you who responded, as well as the ones who read the post, didn’t leave a comment, but thought to themselves, “Maybe I’d better stop worrying about the changes in publishing and just keep writing.”
    Blessings, all.

  7. DiAnn Mills says:

    Hi Richard, I so agree with you and challenges are what make us grow. Thanks for such a timely blog!

  8. thank you for your honesty. Even though one of my books have done well, I have been very discouraged by the way publishing is going. But God is good, and He has given me new courage to keep going. Adaptation has always been the way of human experience.