In the previous post, What Buying, Collecting and Amassing Large Libraries of Books May Say About Us, I reflected a little on Amazon’s new wireless reading device, Kindle. A couple of the questions that I raised were:

  • Will a movement towards electronic reading promote more collaborative writing efforts? How will this effect new theological thinking and publication? And what will this do in terms of authorship and ownership?
  • What will be the future of publishing as we know it now?

Concerning these questions, I was most intrigued by this following passage in the article:

In a connected book, the rabbit hole is no longer a one-way transmission from author to reader. For better or for worse, there’s company coming.

Talk to people who have thought about the future of books and there’s a phrase you hear again and again. Readers will read in public. Writers will write in public. Readers, of course, are already enjoying a more prominent role in the literary community, taking star turns in blogs, online forums and Amazon reviews. This will only increase in the era of connected reading devices. “Book clubs could meet inside of a book,” says Bob Stein, a pioneer of digital media who now heads the Institute for the Future of the Book, a foundation-funded organization based in his Brooklyn, N.Y., town house. Eventually, the idea goes, the community becomes part of the process itself.

Stein sees larger implications for authors—some of them sobering for traditionalists. “Here’s what I don’t know,” he says. “What happens to the idea of a writer going off to a quiet place, ingesting information and synthesizing that into 300 pages of content that’s uniquely his?” His implication is that that intricate process may go the way of the leather bookmark, as the notion of author as authoritarian figure gives way to a Web 2.0 wisdom-of-the-crowds process. “The idea of authorship will change and become more of a process than a product,” says Ben Vershbow, associate director of the institute.

This is already happening on the Web. Instead of retreating to a cork-lined room to do their work, authors like Chris Anderson, John Battelle (“The Search”) and NYU professor Mitchell Stephens (a book about religious belief, in progress) have written their books with the benefit of feedback and contributions from a community centered on their blogs.

“The possibility of interaction will redefine authorship,” says Peter Brantley, executive director of the Digital Library Federation, an association of libraries and institutions. Unlike some writing-in-public advocates, he doesn’t spare the novelists. “Michael Chabon will have to rethink how he writes for this medium,” he says. Brantley envisions wiki-style collaborations where the author, instead of being the sole authority, is a “superuser,” the lead wolf of a creative pack. (Though it’s hard to believe that lone storytellers won’t always be toiling away in some Starbucks with the Wi-Fi turned off, emerging afterward with a narrative masterpiece.)

Fascinating stuff…..

I have been blogging for about four and half years and during that time I have had the opportunity to collaborate more online with others than was previously possible. Now I’m only a click away from collaborating on articles and some book ideas with those around me, and with Facebook, blogs, wikis and more the possibilities are endless.

I still enjoy going away alone to a quiet place or sitting in a coffee shop as I write, but the possibilities of collaborating with others (reading, writing, commenting, bookmarking) through some wireless reading device such as Kindle is so exciting.

This is an area that I have just recently begun to seriously think about, so I’m going to point you in the direction of some others who have been doing this already, and who have some more astute thoughts on some of these issues than I.

Check out Open Source Theology which is a site that encourages a collaborative effort in the development of an emerging theology for the emerging church. Not to be confused with emergent village.

Read Neal Locke’s Challenge to Emergent Authors

As for me. I’m currently exploring a collaborative writing project with four others through the use of a wiki. If anyone has any wikis they love using, let me know.