E-books: Return of the Reader
Just like the previous two installments of this e-book saga there will be allusions to some non-existent struggle, my thoughts on the changing publishing industry, no Leia in a bikini, and definitely no Wookie. When we left our hero writers, they were diligently trying to decide whether they wanted to sign with a traditional publisher or self-publish like an indie rebel. Publishers had the track record, the self-publishing indies had the jump on the fastest growing segment in the industry: e-books.
Now hold on just a second. Traditional publishing is behind? As has already been stated in this blog, his mouth to my post, Michael Connelly is selling 45% e-books. His publishers are clearly on board of this new market place. James Rollins and Steve Berry have both released exclusive e-book short stories on Amazon and B&N as lead-ins to their next books (pity non-US people can’t buy them, not being close enough to the centre of the universe and all). I even noticed that Aussie authors like Tara Moss and Matthew Reilly are available on Kindle for under $10. Behind isn’t quite right.
On the other side of the great divide, all the cool kids authors are self-publishing. People like Konrath, Eisler, Mayer, some guy named John Locke, are doing well out of self-publishing and doing all the work themselves (or hire for service). Clearly all authors should be grabbing their manuscripts and uploading them now.
I’ll pause so you can upload your book now. Don’t forget to spell check first!
Well it seems that 10’s of thousands are doing just that. Given that 90% of everything published is probably crud, you have to question how wise it is to rush to publish. We also have to remember that e-books are still a minority share of the market place (this will change of course). Shouldn’t quality come first? Spend the time on crafting a fine book, see what industry professionals have to say about it, then publish? Preferably not the professionals that published Snooki. Basically writers will have to find the best publishing deal for them, even if it is swapping their novel for a packet of magic beans.
And here is a startling fact: readers don’t care if writers are traditionally published, indie published, self published, or published by a small Scottish Terrier named Rolf. Readers want to read something entertaining and well written. So writers shouldn’t care how they are published. To quote Nick Spalding:
“Writers on the traditional publishing side of this particular conflict want to be successful and earn a decent living as a writer, appealing to an audience with their work. On the other hand, writers on the self publishing side of this particular conflict want to be successful and earn a decent living as a writer, appealing to an audience with their work.”
What I love about e-books is that they are made for readers. Well Duh! Stick with me on this one. Lets say that it is August 2010 and I’ve just finished 61 Hours by Lee Child. Now Lee may or may not have finished with a cliffhanger in that particular book. Despite the fact that the next Reacher novel is finished and ready in boxes to go on shelves, I have to wait until the end of September to read Worth Dying For. With e-books there is no need to delay because of printing, shipping, and shop displays still being filled with James Paterson’s books. In fact, with e-books I can have the entire Reacher series downloaded the minute after I’ve finished 61 Hours to keep my spirits up while I wait.
Essentially the gap between writer and reader has been shortened. The reader is King.
So what about publishers? Well they sell books. Authors write those books for them. I don’t think that in the long run they will particularly care whether they are selling an e-book or a DTB. In fact e-books could really cut out a lot of their middle men costs.
A lot has changed in the past year or two, some of the big companies are behind to some extent, but are more likely to catchup. I still can’t believe that e-readers weren’t dreamt up by publishers and bookstores. But then again I can’t believe that Australia – lots of sun – has sent solar technology to Germany – no sun – and politicians are wanting to move from coal to gas.
As long as publishers are paying advances, advertising/promoting authors and fronting costs they will be who most authors will turn to in order to publish. And when the publisher rejects it, and the crying has finished, the author will release it, plot holes and all, on their own.
Bookshops look like the real loser here, despite their claims to the contrary. Apparently people love the smell of books. Solved. Apparently people like to browse in bookstores. Yes, nothing like spending hours in a store with your head at a funny angle to find the store doesn’t stock what you are looking for. Apparently people love the feel of books. Admittedly books are much better to throw at an intruder, although War & Peace is regarded as a lethal weapon.
Can I just point out that an e-book is a book. That you can read. Thanks for letting me clear that up.
Tenuous reasons for bookshops continued existence aside, I don’t see why there won’t be purveyors of fine literature, and the stuff I like reading, into the future. Online stores are often seen as more reputable when they have a physical storefront. Even if that storefront is never visited by anyone because it is located down a side street, off a back alley, near a crack den. Plus POD could make book buying like a trip to the deli counter for lunch.
As a reader and as a some-day published author, I think that the future is so much brighter for readers and writers. Readers will have access to more good books than ever. Writers will have greater access to an audience than ever. The future of books is very bright and may even step out of the shadow of DVD’s, when DVD’s become obsolete.