The Roger Smith Hotel, site of the recent cookbook conference (courtesy of the hotel)

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.


5 comments on “I AM OLD!

  1. Doris Matthews says:

    Ah, Oy, Ouch indeed! Just because something is the new way (technology?) doesn’t make it better. What, exactly, is wrong with the good old book I ask? Can people not do two things at once anymore-as in hold a book in their hands and read it? I think you are brave Tinky, venturing into the world of podcasts and phones that really are not phones but computers plus. As for me, I’m with Wendell Berry as he asks-why is this piece of technology necessary? what is the cost to our earth’s resources? and what is it going to do to our humanity? Something to think about for all of us. Keep on keepin’ on!

  2. Nicki says:

    Tinky, I can help with photography and web content with photography. I am your age but I am a geek. I have some really great and easy to use photo editing software which makes up for my shortcomings at composing and shooting photos with the right settings with my digital camera. If you are going to shoot a lot of low light stuff, the Canon G11 is absolutely the best camera for the job. Just use the low light setting and it will take care of everything for you. ACDSee is the awesome (and much easier to use) photo editor and digital asset management tool that I use.

  3. Jody says:

    Enjoying the blog! Forget the apps- just publish a pudding!

  4. Anne says:

    I am resisting a lot of new technology stuff – I shall just stick to what I know – until it gets to be so outdated that I will have to upgrade!!

    • tinkyweisblat says:

      Nicki, it’s great to have you in my corner; thanks for being willing to give advice. Jody, I’m always in favor of pudding. And Anne, you’re a wise woman.

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