Embracing the eBook Revolution


Reading

The revolution has come and almost everyone has a Kindle, Nook or some other form of eReader. The question is whether you can consider the iPad and its derivatives to be an eReader as well as a tablet. One of the traditional brick and mortar book store chains in the US, Borders, has filed for bankruptcy. One has to wonder how things might have been different for them if they had embraced the electronic book.

One downfall of the eBook is that the price is the same (or pretty close) regardless of whether you buy it in electronic form or hardcopy. Logic would seem to dictate that the price of the eBook should be cheaper than the hardcopy. But then we also need to take into account the fact that publishing houses need to get another person to do the layout and the format of the eBook which wasn’t there in the print process of the hardcopy. But then it’s a fixed cost and should be allocated across all of the eBooks.

There are advantages to the eBook reader. They can hold hundreds of books, so they’re certainly a space saver. I’m sure my wife will cheer the day that I finally convert to the eBooks and our straining bookshelf can get some much needed respite of my trying to fit as many books as possible into its limited space.

Another advantage is the ease at buying another book. So I have just finished my current book but I don’t feel in the mood to get into the car and drive to the nearest shopping centre brave the throngs of people (I have a thing with large crowds of people – it makes it a real treat going to rugby matches or concerts) to reach the bookstore to get another one. I only need to log onto the net, find one I like and then buy it and download it. Done.

A massive disadvantage (in my eyes and this will tie in to the writing section) is that the gatekeepers of good writing have been pulled down. The major publishing houses still produce eBooks but any noob with a laptop and the right programs can get their books to be sold on Amazon.

I have one reservation about eReaders and that is the fact that I don’t know if I would be able to read using one. If I have anything on the computer that needs to be read and its over a certain length, I prefer to print out a hardcopy and read on that. But then maybe it’s because of the glare of the computer screen, just call me old school.

There is one problem about converting to an eReader at this precise moment and that is pure timing. At the moment, I believe I had thirteen hardcopy books sitting on and in my bedside table waiting for me to read them and many of them are 1,000 page epic fantasy beasts. If I got an eReader it would sit in my drawer and gather dust until I worked my way through all of those books. Maybe it would be a nice Christmas present then.

Writing

As mentioned above, the gatekeepers to good writing have disappeared in many instances and there is no guarantee that the book which sounds great will have been edited properly or have sentences or a story which makes any sense at all. The slushpile which used to sit on agents and editors desks will now to sent out onto the web and it will be up to the general public to sift through the detritus to find the real gems.

Another possibility is that if you choose to self-publish and it will be a distinct possibility now with eBooks and being able to sell your stuff on Amazon is that it will no doubt become increasingly difficult to separate yourself from the rest who will do the same. You might fork out the money for a proper editor to go through your work and help you with getting it into the same quality of product which a publisher would before sending it out into the market, but you could be painted with the same brush as other authors who haven’t put as much money and effort getting their product out.

Another possible problem – PIRACY. Yes, it no doubt happens now with hardcopy books but who is going to stand at a photocopier with a novel like The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson and copy every single page. Books get lent between friends, between family members and from libraries but this might be the best chance of having word of mouth spread about your work. A person might have read one of your books after lending it from a friend but if he liked your work he might go out and buy your next book and you’ve created another ‘customer’. Hell, they may even like your work so much that they go out and buy the book they lent from their friend so they can have it in their collection. With Piracy, it’s possible that those information pirates out there crack the code to prevent your eBook from being copied freely and distribute it on the internet. This means that another million people get to download your work but you don’t see a red cent from these ‘hits’. Ask Metallica how it feels to have their work distributed for free on the web without them seeing anything from it.

Going forward, if the publishing houses decide to drop the price of eBooks who’s to say that they also won’t drop the amount paid to the author per copy to compensate them for the lower price. Getting a book out there is definitely a team effort and not only the author. But everyone else involved in the production of a book is an employee of the publishing house and receive a fixed salary every month regardless of the books they worked on. The only place to cut costs would be the amount paid to the author.

My course going forward will be to try and get published old school. Finish the first draft and then finish all the edits and send out query letters by the thousands to find an agent, etc. until I can finally be published.

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5 thoughts on “Embracing the eBook Revolution

  1. Geoff,

    I’m going to disagree with you and start a debate about the merits of self-publishing versus legacy publishing (old school print), and most of that has to do with my desire as a writer to get my stories in the hands of readers as soon as they are finished (with professional quality writing and formatting a given).

    With print, you have to find an agent, then they have to find a publisher and then you have to haggle over contract to get than measly $5K advance and then a year later, or 18 months after you’ve finished writing “The End”, you book is on bookshelves lost among the best sellers and genre veterans who have all their books taking up all the available shelf space.

    See this blog by JA Konrath (whom you link in your blogroll, ironically) and see how the numbers work out in the author’s favor to self-publish now and make money those 18 months you would otherwise lose. You are also finding customers during that time and when your second book comes out, you have a ready audience…before the original 18 months is up on the legacy publishing timeline.

    http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/12/you-should-self-publish.html

    Food for thought, but I’m personally leaning towards hitting the e-publish market upon completion of my first novel…

    1. Hey Mark

      Some real food for thought, being the accountant that I am (:() I’ll go back and crunch the numbers and see how things can pan out. Maybe I’ll also decide to give the self-publishing route a go.

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