(Originally published March 2 2011)
In Mike Sacks’ collection of humor pieces, Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason, it’s often technology that serves as a catalyst for comedy: One man accidentally sends a mass e-mail to his co-workers, revealing that he’s created a fantasy kingdom where he rules over them as a talking horse. Another Tweets from bed on his wedding night about chocolate doughnuts and Law & Order.
While technology has the power to inspire what we read, Sacks also sees its potential to change how we read, especially with the increasing popularity of digital books and readers. He recently spoke to Kirkus about the future of the e-book and what he thinks it holds for humor writing, authors and readers.
How does the e-book version of Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason differ from the physical version of the book?
I always thought of e-books as being sort of like the DVD extras on DVDs. You add more and hopefully a reader would buy both. So the e-book has more stories and also flushed-out stories, longer versions, more jokes, that sort of thing.
How did you decide which content to include in the e-book version?
In electronic more disparate subjects seem to work better. I just thought I would add everything in there in the electronic version.
What’s your vision for the future of the e-book?
I think in the future it will change publishing, like iTunes has changed music, in that anyone can just put it out there. I’m working on one right now for McSweeney’s, which is really tailor-made for the electronic book. It’s a history of canned laughter. The electronic book will have video samples from shows and sitcoms. It’s just something that wouldn’t have worked in a print version.
I’ve been discussing—this is not definite yet—starting a book imprint for humor. A lot of that would be on electronic, where you could pop out books a lot faster. Part of the problem with publishing is that it takes two years for a book to come out, which for humor is a death knell. It shouldn’t be that long.
How else could e-books change humor writing?
The problem with humor is that a lot of writers for humor want to write stories that agents and editors aren’t really interested in. But with something like this, you’re skipping that middle man so writers can write whatever they want in whatever style they want.
We would see less lame comedy-humor type books and more books that would appeal to comedy nerds. It’s like the alternative music that’s played on the computer radio versus what’s being played on FM radio. Less corporation. It’s not touched by huge publishers. It’s just an individual viewpoint that makes it to the finished stage, which never happens or very rarely.
Do you find yourself mainly reading on e-readers now or are you reading physical books?
A little of both, but I guess it’s the equivalent of when records became cassettes and cassettes became CDs. A lot things I’m interested in aren’t necessarily available on electronic, but that’s the thing—it’ll change quite quickly.
I know a guy in New York who has no CDs. He has a huge collection of music just on his computer, and he has no books, no library. It’s all on his e-reader. The reason is he lives in such a small space and to him it’s what he wanted to do and where it’s going. It might look strange to those who did not grow up like that, but to those who are growing up like that, I think it will be the status quo in a couple of years, if not already.