A roomful of people were perched on uncomfortable chairs waiting for our session to begin at the cookbook conference I recently attended. The young person next to me pointed to the words above, which I had just inscribed on my legal pad.
“Are you really old?” she asked.
I smiled wryly and gestured around the room. “Do you see anyone here older than I am?” I asked her.
It was a hard question to answer tactfully since we were surrounded by twenty-somethings (of whom she was one).
“You don’t look old,” she said.
“I feel old,” I replied.
I was to feel even older as the session got underway. It was called “Enhancing Content Both Online and Off.” The gist of it was that, hard as it is to put out a book, authors and publishers must do much more than just write and publish these days.
First, of all books should now be put out in e-book formats as well as print. This requirement is complicated by the fact that there is no single perfect e-book format. Each type of reader (the Kindle, the Nook, etc.) needs different coding. For cookbooks the formatting dilemma is further complicated by the fact that they often include illustrations that are hard to position in an e-book: when one makes print bigger in an e-reader, for example, that gesture throws off the page’s layout.
I was trying to figure out whether it made sense to try to master the technology to transform my Pudding Hollow Cookbook into the new digital formats when the panelists threw more information at me.
They argued that cookbook authors should create additional content that can be either available on publishers’ websites or linked to directly from little things (I forget the technical term!) inserted into the books. Apparently, smart phones—let me assure you my phone is NOT smart—can read these linky thing and connect immediately to the appropriate spot on the internet.
We writers need to star in videos that explain techniques and show off our personalities. We need to record podcasts explaining the background behind our work. And so forth.
Ay ay ay. Oy oy oy. Ouch ouch ouch.
It’s not clear how authors and publishers are supposed to come up with the time or money to enhance their content. (In fact, it’s not clear whether it’s the authors or the publishers who are supposed to finance the enhancing.) It’s just clear that we are in a whole new publishing environment.
Here’s the good news: I may be old, but I can learn. So I have purchased a small video camera. It was on sale since people aren’t really buying them anymore; I am told that most young folk use their phones as cameras. My phone is only a phone, however, so I procured the camera.
I will recruit young people to help me learn this technology. And I will enter the new age … slowly.
Don’t expect me to post videos right away. But expect them eventually.
The other good news was that I felt more normally aged, if that’s the right term (it does make me sound like a cheese), at the other sessions I attended at the cookbook conference.
At the more theoretical panels (the conference was divided between sessions about the present and future of the industry and sessions about the historiography and idea of cookbooks) I even skewed young.
So my professional life isn’t over. It is certainly changing, however.