The future of the eBook

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As the debate over self-publishing versus traditional publishing rages, authors are quietly uploading their eBooks to websites such as Free-eBooks.net, Smashwords, Kindle Direct Publishing platform, and Lulu – to name a few.

I saw an article yesterday on the Guardian UK website in which Dalya Alberge discusses Ian Rankine’s suggestion that there be tax incentives given to new writers. Traditional publishing meant for authors an upfront advance on their book’s sales. An advance from your publisher 10 years ago could probably make a sufficient dent in your mortgage. These days, it might cover one month’s rent.

It is a sign of the times – not only are there more writers, but there is more competition among publishers. Even without the myriad digital self-publishing platforms available, independent publishers have increased in number in the last few decades. Conversely, the number of independent book sellers has diminished possibly as quickly as the independent publishers have increased. This means a smaller number of outlets for distribution for publishers to make books available through.

Amazon.com is the pioneer here. Traditionally, if your local bookstore didn’t have the book you wanted, you were possibly able to order in a copy, but you would have to wait a week or 2 before it got to you. Amazon brought the bookstore to your doorstep – literally and while you may have still had to wait a week or 2 to get your books when you ordered on Amazon, you could do it from your desk; a convenience I know I welcomed.

Now Amazon is innovating again. Their direct publishing platform has made millionaires in the writing world several times over, now. With a few straightforward steps, your book can be uploaded to Amazon and available to Kindle readers all over the world. That is not to say that the Amazon Direct Publishing program does not have competitors on other platforms. Smashwords.com alone distributes to Barnes and Noble, Sony, Apple and Kobo eBook stores also. This means if you don’t like to be limited to the Kindle market alone, Smashwords is an alternative that will distribute elsewhere for you.

The big name traditional publishers are resisting the change. There are debates about how to regulate eBook distribution and sharing. The concept that a paper back can be lent so many times before it needs replacing and that an eBook can be lent millions of times without compromising quality makes for a very compelling argument against the 0.99c eBook. Yet there is the counter-argument that states the borrowing of books is because paperbacks don’t cost 0.99c and if they did, more people would buy.

This just seems to highlight to me that there is still a lot that we haven’t considered when we are restricting eBooks distribution and self-publishing. As much as I despise the concept of “governing bodies convened to set ground rules” for anything, maybe this is what we need. An independent study of the eBook scene – from all angles – and some ground rules set for going forward. For there is no doubt that eBooks are where the industry is going and there is just so much resistance you can give without giving in. The tide will eventually flow around you.

6 thoughts on “The future of the eBook

  1. Fine thoughts above here. There’s something special about getting a new hardcopy book in your hands that an e-book can’t replace or even replicate.

    In days gone by, giving a bookworm a book was a valued gift. Can hardly say that about giving someone an ebook as a present.

    Still, the ebook delivers immediate access and provided it isn’t just a precis or condensed, it does contain the same information. So the world’s preoccupation with ‘want it now’ seems to indicate that likely there is a solid future for the ebook. Don’t know where that will leave the traditional book though.

    Paul Herring
    Queensland Australia

    • I am a bookworm and loved buying books, but when the Rocket eBook first came out I was hooked. I can keep hundreds of books within my computer, they don’t weigh anything when moving and I can take as many books as I want with me in a device the size of a paperback but much thinner with me wherever I go.
      I now have a Sony eBook that I absolutely love. I don’t want it to do all the thngs a computer can do. I want to read with the least eyestrain and you can’t do that on a computer screen, be it 17 inches or as small as an iPod screen.

  2. E-books aren’t always cheap… sometimes they cost more than actual books

    But they are very convenient, specially if you don’t live in a big city with big (or even medium) size book stores.

    And you can’t read a chapter of a book in the book store… you can on smashwords…

  3. So tell me how you can lend an eBook without giving the person your electronic reading device. You can’t just copy and send an eBook to someone else, can you?

  4. What I would like to have explained to me is how a typical ebook is being sold at $9.99, while a paperback is the same price (with many at $7.99)?
    As far as I know, not only does it have to be written and set, common to both formats; but a paperback actually has to be printed (print press, paper, distribution, losses and returns, etc).

    So… Am I missing something… Is someone making a lot more $ than before… or is it just that Jobs didn’t have time to take on the publishing business with his .99c model???

    • This is the kind of question I’d like to see answered, too. :-)

      Either it is a case of the publisher just not understanding the e-publishing model and it’s process, or it’s an attempt to preempt the idea of “loss of multi-copy income”.

      Thanks for writing in!

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