Saturday, February 28, 2009


I've been resisting ebooks for a long time. I like my physical paper and bound books. You can have my leather-bound volume of Don Quixote when you pry it from my dead fingers.

Then I became a writer.

Then I started to study the publishing world and trying to understand the seismic (there, I'm the eleventy millionth person to use that metaphor - and "eleventy" for that matter) changes happening there.

Ebooks are going to free authors from publishers.

Ebooks are going to free readers from publishers.

Not sure what traditional publishers are going to be doing 10 years from now. From what I can tell, they're either in massive denial and still think their current business model will be relevant ten years from now, or they're trying to come up with some way to "own" the ebook space and give the appearance of embracing the future when they're really still following the same dead formula.

I just read this article from Slate. I may have misunderstood the article, because I have a hard time believing that a professional technology writer could get it so wrong, but you are NOT limited to only buying from the Kindle store if you buy a Kindle (although their not-so-helpful user information would seem to suggest that's the only outlet available to you). Case in point, go to the support page on an ebook website for simple instructions for Kindle owners to read the bright new content being published, sometimes directly by the authors themselves.

Authors and their fans are taking matters into their own hands. The technology is here. And if you want to get access to reading material that is maybe too darkly humorous, too niche, too fan fiction, too personal or too whatever to be picked up for publishing by a conventional publisher who is forced by their costs and overhead to only pick up works with a broad appeal, then go get ye some kind of ebook reading device. And then go gorge yourself. There is some great writing out there.

And maybe publishers should work on finding out what's going to drive people to purchase a print book instead of an ebook. For me, I'll be buying print books that I feel have some sort of "heirloom" value - it's a classic that I want to be able to look up at and see resting on the library shelf, or an important reference, or it has a personal sentimental value, or the pictures and graphics are too good for ebook consumption - or it's a beloved book that isn't available as an ebook. Ebooks will also dramatically affect the aftermarket for used books in the same way iTunes/mp3's have for CDs, since people won't have so many print books on hand to need to sell again to make room for the next one.

The world of books is changing at lightning speed. And if it means my kids will carry a Kindle instead of a massive backpack full of books to and from school, how cool is that?

1 comment:

Lisette Kristensen said...


Read your comment over at BookEnds and jumped to this post. Couldn't agree more with you on epub/self publishing.

My plan currently is to submit my mss to the traditional publishers, in the meantime, I am reviewing self publishing as an alternative if all reject my story. My premise is this, they may reject it for a mulitude of reasons, but if my beta readers like it, my critique partners like it, then hell, why not publish it myself. Who cares?

I feel more comfortable with my ability to self promote than a publisher. I have good friend who has a book with an epub, and it has sold 6 copies. It's a good erotic romance, but there is no promotion by them, and she is too busy to hustle it.

Finally, from a business perspective. With the economy struggling and it will for sometime, the publishing industry is going to consolidate and restructure, which will reduce the avenues for writers even more. This will create an explosion of self publishing and POD opportunities for authors. The recent issue of The Writer had some interesting statistics regarding self pub and it is the wave of the future and it will gobble share from the traditional market.