Nowadays, the Self-Published Author (SPA), is at the forefront of a writing revolution that Thomas Kuhn described in 1963 as a, “paradigm shift”. (Source: NCTE) In the past, authors whose books were placed in bookstores had to ensure their writing fit neatly into a specific genre. Why? At the bookstore, the physical book is only going to occupy shelf space on one shelf, in its assigned genre. That means following conventions of the genre in order to meet the physical limitations of the store and reader expectations of the genre.
Nowadays, thanks to developments like Print On Demand (POD) and online book stores, the SPA can cross genre boundaries. Why? In the digital world, there is no physical book shelf to occupy. Therefore, a book can contain elements of multiple genres. My book, “Looking For Catarina“, is an example of a multiple-genre book. It is an example of the kinds of texts that can be produced when writing is liberated from the confines of genre.
Multiple genre books are important, because they respond to a changing world in which we can do new things, write in new ways. It provides a new dimension to the concept of “crossover books”, which appeal to young and old alike. The multi-genre book, rather than appeal to a wide age range, appeals to a wider range of reading tastes. Readers who enjoy a wide variety of books can enjoy the same book. For an example of this, look at the following review headlines:
“A Romantic Visit To Florence”
“Time Travel For The Incurable Romantic”
“Young Love In 1533″
A Short Story Full of Surprises”
“An Enchanting Love Story”
More importantly, the SPA has the freedom to tell the story s/he wants to tell, constrained only by the limits of their imagination. The SPA can write like Salvador Dali painted, freely, uninhibited by the boundaries and conventions and restrictions of any genre. This is a revolution that is currently going on, in which hybrid texts are being produced. Nobody would know where to put these books in a physical bookstore.
These hybrid texts can result in more creative writing and storytelling. This is important because these writers can ultimately appeal to a wider reading audience than before. Yet such writing places demands on reading comprehension that have gone largely unnoticed and unaddressed. For example, a look at book reviews often show book reviewers using genre conventions and expectations to judge hybrid, genre-crossing texts. This is a mismatch between text type and criteria.
It is widely accepted that reading comprehension involves two primary processes: (a) decoding printed text, and (b) understanding language accessed through the process of decoding. Once decoding becomes automatized, reading comprehension is largely dependent upon one’s skills in language comprehension (Catts, Hogan, & Adlof, 2005). Put another way, reading without understanding is the same as not reading at all.
In the end, writing is undergoing a profound, technology-driven, change. This is an enormous paradigm shift that is currently going on. It has created difficulty involved with reading texts that do not conform to the readers’ preconceived notions of genre. This will motivate readers to ultimately let go of old ways of understanding a text and embrace new ways to understand multiple genre, hybrid, border-crossing, boundary-blending text forms that are being produced by many self-published authors around the world.