The future of digital publishing

Ira Agting

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Its further rise and spread, alongside the steadfast printed word

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS GIRL? From online publishing to real-life autograph signing. Photos by Ira Agting

MANILA, Philippines – Digital gets bigger and bigger.

While there is an ongoing debate on the future of print in the technological paper-less age, there is no doubt that the demand for online media continues to rise.

Organizers of the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) embrace this change and are gearing to branch out to the online world come 2014. A special showcase on ebooks and digital media – tablets, ebook readers and other handheld reading devices – may be given its own floor in the 2014 MIBF.

To kick off the digital revolution, the 2013 fair already includes several booths aided by technology.

Kobo, for one, is an ebook reader which features international as well as Pinoy titles.

Interactive learning stations using tablets and projectors are also featured in the fair.

One of the main events in the fair is a talk dedicated to digital publishing by Allen Lau, CEO and co-founder of a social media based publishing site called Wattpad.

The discussion, held September 12, also featured Wattpad’s most popular Pinoy writers.

WATTPAD. Country manager Kristel Tan and CEO, co-founder Allen Lau

Since 2006, the Canada-based company has grown in popularity, as a community where budding writers may share their stories. Over 10 million users share their works, with thousands of new stories being added to the library each day.

Touching on the 30 languages featured in Wattpad, Lau is happy to note that next to English, Filipino is the second most used. Also, around 20% of Wattpad’s traffic comes from the Philippines.

He links Wattpad’s popularity among Filipinos to their fondness of social media.

“Part of that is cultural because the Filipino is very social on the Internet,” he told the press.

“Wattpad is a combinaton of e-reading, social, as well as mobile. In the Philippines, I would say, most people read through their mobile devices.”

Self-publishing through social media

But what exactly do Filipinos read and write about?

According to Wattpad data, romance and fanfiction are the most popular among Pinoy users. Stories about love teams “KathNiel” (Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla) and “JhaBea” (Jhake Vargas and Bea Binene) top the charts.

READ: The #Kathniel Twitter craze

One such story by Denny, a Filipino user under the name HaveYouSeenThisGirl, was discovered and published by PSICOM Publishing through Wattpad.

To this day, her story, “Diary ng Panget,” has been read over 15 million times online and has sold around 5,000 hard copies in one week.

To add to her success, the book has been signed by Viva Films for a movie adaptation in 2014.

The first day of the fair featured a meet and greet with the 19-year-old author, who flew in from Italy for an autograph signing. Her other works “She Died” and “Voiceless” books 1 and 2 are also available at MIBF.

Now a published author, Denny joins the likes of Wattpad users Beth Reekles (“The Kissing Booth“) and veteran novelist Margaret Atwood who, in her profile, acknowledges how writing and publishing has changed through the years.

Sharing your work

Lau, too, belives the first step in getting published is sharing one’s work.

“[A lot of writers] are afraid of sharing their work,” he said. “If you do that, you miss the opportunity to let other people appreciate your writing. You also miss bigger opportunities.”

“Your story may be that good that it could become a movie. If you don’t share this, you would never know,” he continued.

 “Because social networks are getting so popular and so easy right now, there is almost no downside for you to keep your story a secret.”

Wattpad is currently working with Source Books, one of the largest publishers in the US, and is in the process of developing a project called “Fan Funding,” where users may crowdsource funds for their work. 

PAPER-LESS BOOKS. Modern reading through ebooks

Some may now doubt the power of hardcopy books, but Lau has confidence in its resilience. In fact, he strongly believes print and digital can coexist.

“I don’t think it’s as simple as one replacing the other,” said Lau.

“There’s something special with print books, not like music, for example. For books, the consumption experience is actually quite different.

“For people who appreciate the convenience, ebook is the way to go, but for some people who would like to collect paperbook on bookshelves, that probably would take a lot of time to go away,” he explained.

“I do see paperbook and ebooks, they will coexist for some time. In the long term, ereading will hopefully increase, but I don’t think print will disappear.” –

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