Thursday, June 3, 2010

To E-book or not E-book?

A recent article in "Publisher's Weekly" concerning Joe Konrath and e-books has generated a lot of chatter about the future of publishing on various message boards. Some feel that the death knell has been sounded; that once the price on e-readers drop to a more affordable level, e-books will control the market. It reminds me of a statement I once heard…it went something like this…that whenever a certain percentage (I think it was around 90%) of the population acquires a new technology, the industry that said technology replaces, starts feeling the effects. The example they used was the old fashioned "icebox". Back in the day when people used iceboxes to keep food cold, the iceman was a constant visitor in everyone's home, but once refrigerators became affordable, the iceman went the way of the Dodo bird. The industry died.

What do I think? Well, first let me say that although I love living in the Midwest, Iowa isn't exactly the hub of the publishing industry. We're known for producing corn and soybeans, not books. *g* All I know is what I read and what I hear, but here's my opinion, for whatever it's worth.

No, traditional publishing is not dead. Is it changing? You bet! But I do believe that there will always be a demand for "printed" books. Why? Based on my own feelings and the feeling of those I queried in the two little surveys I did a couple of months ago, there's more to reading than just the words. People like holding a printed book in their hands; they like seeing them lined up on their bookshelves; they like owning signed copies; and they like knowing those books will always be there for them to revisit at anytime-they'll never have to "delete" them to make room for more. And think about this-can you imagine sitting down with a little kid and reading them a story off an e-reader? I don't know about you, but it's always been my experience that kids like "touching", they love trailing their fingers across a brightly colored page as you're reading to them. It just wouldn't be the same on a screen.

Then what about e-books? Yup, they're going to be a bigger share of the market-all I have to do is look at my last royalty statement to see that trend. E-books accounted for a larger percentage of the sales than ever before, especially the first five "Ophelia and Abby's." E-readers are convenient, great to take along on a trip, and can provide instant gratification. (Why wait until you can get to a bookstore to buy that new release you've been dying to read…just download it now on your e-reader!) I also think they'll have a strong appeal to the "techo" generation-young people, like my twenty-one year-old daughter who goes into withdrawal when her IPod isn't working, who uses a computer for everything, from keeping a virtual "diary" on Facebook to shopping online, and who can text faster with two thumbs than I can type on a keyboard with ten fingers! I can also see where e-books might expand an author's readership. (They try your e-book, like it, and then buy your in-print books.)

So what does this to mean to me, as an author and someone who makes part of their living by writing? I think I need to eventually expand more into the e-book market by putting out some original work in that format. Do I want to go strictly e-book? No, but if the market's there, I think it would be smart to capitalize on it. But I have to admit the idea is a little scary. In a way, I kind of feel it's going to be working without a net, that net being my editor!! I really do rely on her to catch mistakes, holes in the plot, and any other issues that might make the manuscript a less than satisfying read. What if I put something out there that the readers won't like, will it end my career both in print and e-books? I honestly don't know, but my agent once said that authors who stay in the game are the ones who roll with the punches. And that's what I'm going to do…roll with it. All I can do is try my best, be as professional as I can be about it, then let the chips fall. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and all that. If I'd have let scary things hold me back, I never would've become a writer in the first place!!

I'll let you know how it works out!!! (Anyone else who wants to chime in, feel free!!)

That's it for now-have a great rest of the week!!



Sharon said...

I think you are right. I wouldn't want to do without my kindle at this point. There are some stories you just can't get at a store. There are so many independent authors out there that I would have never known about if it wasn't for my kindle. I am more willing to try something new since I can get a sample of a book on my kindle. The main reason to have my favorite books in paper form is to go back through them. You really can't flip through an ebook to re-read your favorite parts or check a fact. You would have to keep pushing "next page" a few hundred times .

I don't understand, why would you have to do without an editor if you publish ebooks?

Diane P said...

I love my Kindle and I can't tell you how many books I have bought because I could download them quickly. I live out & away from bookstores and do quite a bit of my buying at Amazon.
I do buy books to share or to keep on my shelf. I can't see stopping doing either kinds of purchasing.

Shirley Damsgaard said...

Hi Sharon,

To answer your question--if I wind up putting original work up on Amazon, as other authors are doing right now, it would be on my own. I wouldn't be going through a publishing house, so no editor!!

Actually what I'm thinking about doing is putting out a collection of short stories--just to give it a try and see what happens. I'll be sure and let everyone know if I do!

Sharon said...

Short stories would be awesome! Would you have to use a different name?

Shirley Damsgaard said...

Hi again Sharon,

No, they'll be under "Shirley Damsgaard." BUT, once I receive my editor's blessing on this project, I intend to include a short story by that new author, Jess McConkey!! Hopefully, the readers will enjoy it and want her new book out next May! (wink, wink!)

Anonymous said...

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Lisa D said...

I don't know what I would do without my nook. Just love the little gizmo but I do love to collect signed books. I really enjoy the feel of a book and especially enjoy the cover art.