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  • Elana Duffy

Spotlighting: Adding value through epublishing



I am the child of a successful writer and a librarian. To me, nothing beats the smell of a good book. Whether it is old and musty or fresh off the shelf, something about the smell of paper and ink and binding glue just makes the reader want to nestle in whatever cove they have available and have a warm, cozy read. Newspapers, magazines, books, each has a distinct smell and feel and tangible heaviness that reminds the brain that there is something to do. Present Tense, of course, only has eBooks at the moment. We made the practical decision to release shorter books in electronic format. We needed value clients and others could add quickly, which was the point of our 10/10 initial release. The immediacy of doing something now, for your business, was accentuated by the immediacy and the accessibility of the ebook. It added reader emotion by subconscious emphasis on the quickness of steps to be taken right now without trips to a bookstore or waiting for a drone to drop something off. In addition to just this book, we create web content for sites, blogs, and major publications for our clients in order to add market value to everything they and their products already do. I am an engineer by education: efficiently adding value through technology is a no-brainer. But that tactile feeling was initially tough for me to reconcile, despite the practicality, and I know this to be the case for many of my traditional reader friends. In fact, in helping to proof and order Frank’s recent release of Blues Flashbacks I at first wished for the glossy photos of blues musicians and the smell of paper that would have accentuated the time of these (printed) interviews. I wanted to feel something, not just a cold keyboard. But as we finalized pieces and got closer to final copy, it became rapidly obvious that paper might not be the most effective means to evoke feeling. There were songs and music to immediately connect with, other research that could back up the interviews on any mobile platform. An e-release made sense for the way we could increase feeling through sound and tangential background, either directly referenced or researched by the interested reader. So though a coffee table book is never out of the question when it comes to Buddy Guy, the potential to hear and feel was just too great. But I could never convince others, or sometimes myself, that there were other uses than immediacy and audio until about two months ago when a friend forwarded the most recent release from the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe. This is the same investigative division that uncovered the sexual abuse of young boys in the church, a piece that hit home so hard it changed the dynamic and perception of an international religious force many previously thought to be immobile. The new piece – as thorough as the original release of the first section of the church scandals – detailed abuse of boys at some of the most prestigious prep schools in the country. But that original piece was print, of course, tangible and real and relating Americans to their churches in a way they could subconsciously see and smell and feel through the tactile nature of paper. This piece as I received it was electronic, so how could it have the same effect? As I read through, however, the power was apparent. The team had capitalized on the electronic release, understanding that this format could add profound value to enact the same, or possibly even more change. Interviews were not simply in text and transcript, they were on video with graphics and power and expressions. The feeling was much rawer as the victims told their stories. References and tangential information added as links did not distract from the main themes and articles, but could be accessed later to add more detail when and if the reader saw fit. Drop down menus of schools and associated cases, pull quotes one could not simply ignore as a sidebar, each item added distinct value and emphasis to the gravity of the investigative reporting. I wanted the rabbit holes of links upon links. I likened it to my YouTube rabbit holes of conspiracy theories (tin foil and all, the way they can tell a story is fascinating), where I keep thinking just one more tidbit and I’ll have all I need to have heard it all, but that one more is never the last. This piece was so well done, so detailed and ran so deep to other parts of the internet that I didn’t need to feel paper for my brain to translate and interpret: it could see the depth of the problem from the sheer information available. We live in a place and in a time where we have a world of access to information we couldn’t possibly contain in a single text or print article. We, or you, or Present Tense on your behalf, can write a 900 word blog that conveys one point and brings up a thousand more points to explore and to learn. We can bring music to your references, voices to your quotations, and evidence to your arguments. It’s part of why we dedicate ourselves to these projects: telling your stories in the best way to evoke feelings, and make you memorable. I love the smell of ink on paper in any form, the feeling of writing by hand and turning a page. I will continue to buy books and flip through Billboard magazine or the morning paper. But when there is careful and calculated value and passionate feeling to add in the reader, be it the joy of the blues or the immediacy of brainstorming or the tragedy of covered abuse, I’m happy to click download.

Elana Duffy is co-founder and COO of Present Tense LLC, a communications company dedicated to helping people express their ideas through better business storytelling. Lana is also a veteran of the US Army, a masters of engineering graduate, and a freelance writer in NYC, along with being the CEO and co-founder of Pathfinder, a "Yelp for Veteran resources". She is the co-author of the first in the Present Tense “singles” short ebook series, 10/10, for sale on Amazon and other major retailers.

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