Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Top 10 Myths About Our E-book Future

As we look forward to our (mostly) paperless future, I have been noticing a few predictions out there that I do not agree with and wish to quash like bug. I've previously tackled the Top 10 Myths about E-books themselves, but I thought I'd do a broader one about the reading and publishing world as a whole. Behold!

Man, I love that word. Behold! I am wielding an exclamation point! Behold! Behold!

Ahem. Sorry.

Behold!

1. Due to an avalanche of self-published and poorly edited e-books, readers will be submerged in a big pile of suck.

The avalanche is already here. Go to Amazon and you'll find a million books for sale with more uploaded every day, and yet we're all still able to find the books we want to read. You won't have to go wading through a giant slush pile in order to find something to read. Good books will find you, just like they already do.

2. Publishers are going to disappear.

There's more to making a book than uploading it to Amazon. Even in the e-book era publishers offer a range of services that are not easy to duplicate. While they will no longer be the iron-clad necessity that they used to be in the print era, publishers will still be around.

3. Paper books will disappear.

Some people just love the paper, and not to worry. Even in a world where we read primarily e-books, print will still be an option. Where there is a customer, there is a seller.

4. E-books are going to destroy libraries.

As of last October there were over 5,000 libraries who offer e-books. While I haven't yet heard of an e-reader lending program, I have heard of libraries that lend iPods loaded with digital audiobooks, so e-reader programs can't be far behind. (UPDATE: actually they're already here. See comments section for more)

5. All authors will have an equal shot.

The future will definitely be more equal as authors no longer have to scale the print publishing gates in order to find readers and can upload their manuscript to e-bookstores. Everyone will have a chance, but some chances will be more equal than others. The advantage will still go to authors with platforms and those launched by major publishers. Sorry, all you egalitarians out there.

6. The book world will be divided between a few megabestsellers and everyone else selling only two copies. It will be impossible for authors without platforms to get anyone to pay attention to them.

While, as I mentioned in point number 5, the early advantage will go to those with existing platforms, hits will come out of nowhere, including from people without huge platforms and a built-in audience. Just like the Double Rainbow guy. All it takes for a book to go viral is one person recommending a book to two friends and the process repeating several million times.

7. We're all going to drop our e-readers into our bathtubs amid a massive, world-wide power outage and multi-government e-book deletion conspiracy that causes us to permanently lose every book the world has ever published.

Possible. But unlikely.

8. The reading world will be divided between those who can afford an e-reader and those who can't.

While I think this is a legitimate concern, over the long term: 1) I think the price of e-readers and multifunctional tablets are going to decline to the point of affordability for just about everyone, 2) print will still exist, 3) libraries will still exist, 4) e-books themselves will be cheaper than their print counterparts.

9. Bookstores will disappear.

Let's be honest, a lot of them probably will. But the good and enterprising ones who follow the Powell's model and embrace, rather than fear, the online world will have a reason to survive. Bookstores won't survive because we're nostalgic about them, they'll survive if they continue to give us reasons to buy from them.

10. E-books will evolve into all-knowing robots that will implant carnivorous baby e-books inside our brains and devour our heads from within.

Actually that one's true.






102 comments:

Lisa said...

Great, balanced perspective. Appreciate the insight!

fakesteph said...

In response to number f: http://librarianchat.com/forum/index.php?topic=1162.0

Showed up on my twitter two days ago...

fakesteph said...

That would be number four, and not number f.

Nathan Bransford said...

I knew it! Thanks for the link, fakesteph.

Mags said...

We're all going to drop our e-readers into our bathtubs amid a massive, world-wide power outage and multi-government e-book deletion conspiracy that causes us to permanently lose every book the world has ever published.

I'M WRITING THAT BOOK AND YOU BETTER NOT STEAL IT

;-)

Miranda Neville said...

The town library in Hanover, NH has a number of Kindles available to borrow.

abc said...

I don't understand the e-book fear and e-book frustration. I hate to pull out that old argument about how there are bigger things to worry about, but there are bigger things to worry about.

LIKE THIS OIL THING IN THE GULF.

And I just watched Born into Brothels and now feel the need to adopt little Indian children.

But back to the E-book, people be complaining. Americans especially seem to have a knack for it (go to any local paper website and read the comments). We are like a bunch of cranky old men shouting at the local kids to get off our lawn.

But me, I'm going to welcome the future with open arms. Reading books on a sleek electronic device is kind of cool. And in my other life--the one where I'm a jet setter and head off to Paris for international intrigue (or maybe just a fancy speaking engagement)--I'll be reading Flaubert (OK, Connelly) on the plane and then twittering about it from the same device. The future!

Joseph L. Selby said...

Word count. I can't wait for a manuscript over 110k not to be too large. You know how many words you have to have in your ms for an ebook file to be too big?

That's right. Come to papa, ebooks.

abc said...

It's tweeting, not twittering, isn't it? I'm not so cool in my other, jet-setting, life. Or in this one.

Amanda Sablan said...

So the monster under my bed must be an e-book monster... That would explain the eerie glow!

Reena Jacobs said...

9. Bookstores will disappear.

Let's be honest, a lot of them probably will.

This is already happening, at least for Brick & Mortar stores. Very seldom do I go to the bookstore these days, yet I'm constantly purchasing books (PRINT books). It has nothing to do with the e-book trend, but rather the ease of not having to leave the house, cause I'm just that lazy some times. I have no problem waiting a day, week, or two weeks for that matter for a book to be delivered to my doorstep. And with some places offering free delivery, it doesn't cost one penny more to order online. And if I find a coupon in my mailbox or special deal, I can get my books even cheaper than going to the brick and mortar store.

fakesteph said...

abc... I'm so glad I'm not the only one excited that we live in the future.

Mary McDonald said...

Where can I get one of the ebooks described in number 10? I can think of a few people I could give those to as gifts. ;-D

joanq6 said...

Behold! I propose #11: The publishing industry and e-book manufacturers will stop squabbling and remember who's really important: The Reader.

I only wish that one were true.

Larry Jacobson said...

#11
It won't matter anyway because many of today's children can't read anyway.
(oh, I so hope that one doesn't come true!)
Behold!
Larry Jacobson
Author of: The Boy Behind the Gate
http://theboybehindthegate.com

Misa said...

Behold! As a writer I like #5, naturally. It broadens chances of getting published without negating on the quality.

I think this future involves the writer more with their audience - blogs, Twitter, etc. Some people will no doubt baulk at a more interactive relationship, but I love the idea.

Casey Lybrand said...

I was a worried for a moment you would leave out that last pervasive myth. I'm sure I speak for many aspiring writers when I say that's the one keeping me up at night. Glad you addressed it. The future will be easier to accept if we're clear about the brain-eating cyborg e-book babies.

(Seriously, thank you for the list!)

christwriter said...

Re: No. 8 ... Amazon is already letting you download a Kindle reader to your computer. So yeah, the world probably will be divided by the haves and have nots ... only it will be less "e-reader" and more "computer of some sort or another"

Kinda like it is, ya know, right now.

RosieC said...

The conspiracy theorist in my questions your response to #7 :) Thanks for your thoughts on the issue.

PS--My aunt is a librarian in WI, and they are running a pilot program for lending e-readers. I haven't heard if they kept with it, though.

Stu Pitt said...

Powells and Green Apple do a great job of stocking mostly used books. The used model is superior, and quality buyers make it a treat to spend hours in their stores. Limiting the new selection is smart.

Their success will continue no matter what the Internet offers people who like books.

MJR said...

I can borrow library books on my Sony e-reader, but I much prefer getting out of my house, visitng the library, and bringing home a book--a real book, that is. Plus, I enjoy browsing in the new books section at my library and being open to bringing home whatever I might find there. I know resistance is futile against the E-BORG, but I have to keep fighting...

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

A carnivorous baby e-book just chewed its way out through my ear. What does this mean?

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tawna Fenske said...

I've gotta admit, it made my head spin to watch my agent negotiate all the little clauses on electronic rights in my recent contract. The whole e-book thing is still a bit of a mystery to me, but I recognize that it's certainly the wave of the future. I'm just glad there's someone smarter than me tending to all those details :)

Tawna

Maya said...

E-books are the devil, the end of civilization, and propagated by dirty commies! I will worship at the altar of my overflowing bookshelves and pray to the Book Gods that the blight will forever perish from this land and leave us to caress our dear, musty dead trees as is Right and Holy.

The Editor Devil said...

QUESTION: Do you think that e-books will help make serial stories popular again?

Seeing a rise in small formatt tools and short format social media. Heck, even my liste serves are making more "call for submissions" for short stories.

best,
The Editor Devil

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Other Lisa said...

Plus, via Shelf Awareness...

Big Indie Bookstore Sales Inch Up This Year.

I wonder if the instant accessibility of eBooks and their relatively cheaper cost will expand the market for all kinds of books?

Mira said...

Not worth it. The future will happen, regardless of my little posts.

What's important - Great post, Nathan. You address very clearly all the concerns that were voiced on Tuesday. That post and comments left me vaguely reeling and uncomfortable. I appreciate that you pulled out all the various anxieties and addressed them here.

I like e-books. I like the opportunity it gives everyone - no one can be overlooked or left out. Not all shots will be equal, but shots will be available equally. That's a very good thing in this world. :)

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

I think what everyone has to embrace is that we have to keep up with new technologies and social change. There’s more room for good writing than ever before. No matter what genre we write we have to be savvy marketers and what sells us is an online presence. Maggie Stiefvater’s Linger has debuted at number one on the NY Times list, but two years ago if you paid attention to what she was doing you’d have seen this coming. She’s a slick writer because she works hard at craft: find the post that has her initial rejection stats in it and you’ll see she has perseverance. What she does, and has learned to do well is socialise her passion, personality, and premise. There you go social media gurus, the 3 P’s. Crikey, ring Tony Robbins!

The world’s filled with mentors and examples of potential and what’s possible. We’ve been telling stories for as long as we’ve been sitting around a fire. With ebooks we don’t have to wait our turn to speak, but if our stories are ordinary no one is going to listen. The stats on getting published are dismal, but that’s the story tellers fault. If an agent had 100 good manuscripts one after the other I’m sure they’d take the work or give it to colleagues, or self combust. If there were that many good projects there’d be more agents and publishers. I’m not published, but why waste time talking about it. There’s enough free information all I have to do is not give up, and hold onto my job at McDonalds. Good content will always outshine bad content.

I wandered off topic. Ooops!

Anonymous said...

What does that mean - a big pile of suck? I've read that sentence ten times now and I still don't understand it.

A big pile of suck?

Huh?

Also, does any of this really matter? Words will always be words, won't they? Why does it matter HOW we read them?

Livia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Other Lisa said...

Why does it matter HOW we read them?

Because the "how" has a huge impact on the existing business infrastructure that brings the words to readers--the model that pays writers, I mean.

Dan said...

On the question of bookstores, if e-books become 50% of book sales, then most bookstores will close. Even those with substantial online businesses will have to really re-evaluate preserving their retail space.

Some will make it; I am sure Powell's will survive. I'm sure the Strand in NYC will make it. Most major metropolitan areas will be able to support a couple of stores. Universities will probably still have bookstores.

But the national and regional chains are going to retrench and many independents are going to go out of business. There won't be huge BN stores in suburban shopping centers anymore. The percentage of Americans who don't live within fifty miles of a bookstore will increase substantially.

And, as bookstores shrink, the publisher's role of selling to bookstore accounts will become less important. Editorial and publicity assistance will continue to be valuable, and so will getting paid in advance.

But the economics are going to change; when a bestselling author can pay for editorial and publicity on his own and get an 80% royalty on self-published e-book sales, he'll be able to demand and get more to stick with the publisher. When sales and distribution become less important, the negotiating power of top authors increases substantially. I don't see how the current business model for publishing is sustainable in an environment where 80% of current bookstores close.

I think it might transform in a way that shifts the business risk of publishing a book from the publisher to the author. Maybe publishing will become a kind of professional service, in which authors pay for editorial, marketing, and publicity. Maybe publishing will simply shrink, and start acquiring fewer books to rebalance the risk around a smaller up-side.

Nathan Bransford said...

A little literal anon! I just nouned the word "suck." It's an Internet thing, like how people say someone is "made of awesome."

Nathan Bransford said...

I just tried saying "a little literal" five times fast, wasn't able to.

February Grace said...

10. E-books will evolve into all-knowing robots that will implant carnivorous baby e-books inside our brains and devour our heads from within.

Actually that one's true.


I KNEW IT!

I knew it I knew it I KNEW it!

~bru

Anonymous said...

My brother works for B&N, (mamagement) and he has assured me the company has a plan. The number of us who may USE an e-reader is different from the number of us who WANT the physical book. Surveys from the B&N folks have shown that there will continue to be a great need for bookstores for at least several more decades....or so my brother says. I just hope he is correct, for my sake, as well as his.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

I love you Nathan, you're so cool. (sheesh, am I allowed to say that?)

Thanks for your take on things.

swampfox said...

The thing is that technology keeps advancing faster than I can keep up with it. First there were 8 tracks, then cassette tapes, then Video Tape with VTRs or VCRs...you had VHS, then Beta, then Suber Beta, then Super VHS, then upgraded VHS that seemed to settle the market.

But it didn't. Suddenly, Laser Discs were the future, but just as they hit the market, CDS and DVDs made them obsolete, and before you were able to get used to that, now you just download to iPods (or is it upload??) and ditto with the whole DVR thing that puts you in the dinosaurs days if you don't have that. Now the whole mess is bleeding into the book market. Where will it end? WHEN will it end?

D.G. Hudson said...

I liked the #10 myth, it sounds like a 1950s sci-fi story.

How do myths get started? In the same way as gossip. Someone formulates an opinion, and convinces enough people that it's true.

We need these posts to translate the dire predictions and gloomy articles that focus on the problems of publishing & authors. It all seems to hinge on who you want to listen to.

Thanks for clarifying some of these misconceptions. Yours seems to be a clear voice in the crowd.

graywave said...

I had to smile at #1. I published a book earlier this year (with a commercial poblisher) in ebook editions only. No print edition exists or is planned. What I found was that all the major reviewers (newspapers, magazines, and even websites and blogs) will not even consider reviewing an ebook. They will only review paper books. That means a commercially-published ebook is effectively invisible unless there is also a print edition that can be reviewed.

swampfox said...

Oh, and I forgot to insert Blue Ray in there after DVDs. See...I told you this is advancing faster than I can keep up with it.

Munk said...

This blog is just one big pile of awesome.

ryan field said...

This was a good post. I think it helps people understand more about where things are going in a time when so many people are worried that print books are just going to disappear completely.

Chris Eldin said...

AHAHAHAHAHAHAH @ "One big pile of suck." Nathan, a naming contest for this pile of suck, please?
:-)

Kaytee B. said...

As a librarian and aspiring writer, I hold out hope that print books will stick around.

There are many legal issues to work out regarding whether or not libraries should even be allowed to loan out copies of downloaded books on e-readers. And remember, checking out a print book from your library is FREE. Last I checked, purchasing a book for your Kindle cost around $10.

And just as an aside, most libraries are busier now than they were five years ago. People love the moldy, dusty (sometimes smoky) smell of a real book in their hot little hands.

Rick Daley said...

I can't take it. Someone get me a rotary phone and the kind of TV where you have to get up and twist the dial to change the channel.

NOTE TO THE YOUNGER READERS: Yes, they really used to make TVs like that.

M. M. Justus said...

This is one of the more sensible posts I've seen on the subject.

The only thing I am mourning is the demise of used book stores. That's the only part of ebooks I resent.

Kelsey Sutton said...

Thanks, Nathan. Put some of my worries to rest!

Kelsey
http://kelseysutton.blogspot.com/

The Original Drama Mama said...

Yep, plenty of libraries have an e-book lending program (mine uses Digital Media Mall) and I love it! Quick access to books, and my scatterbrain avoids late charges because when the 3 week lending period is up, the file explodes! (er, well, not exactly) I can't wait for the popularity of e-books to grow, because my biggest complaint is the rather slim pickins on my library's digital shelves.

T. Anne said...

If distribution was one of the primary keys to success with paper books, what's the equal marketing force for e-books? Sure you can upload manuscripts all day long, but what is going to help angle for a slot in the top 100 where buyers might actually realize your work exists? I suppose the answer is word of mouth, creating a buzz and platform, platform, platform.

I guess you could argue that distribution couldn't be better because suddenly you're in everybody's living room. But really your work is buried under mountains of other books. I think authors are going to have to spend as much time studying a variety of marketing techniques as they do writing their novels. *Let the games begin.*

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Re: evolution of bookstores

My local B&N is revamping a huge center section to house teacher supplies and workbooks, trying to eat the teacher-store's lunch by cutting into their market.

It just might work, plus keep the bookstores afloat a little longer.

kathleen duey said...

Thanks for this. There is certainly no downturn in the need for stories, so I am not too wary of the future. Not yet anyway.

I, agree that #7 is very VERY unlikely, but I also think I might get a short story out of it. So thanks for that, too.

Anonymous said...

I respectively suggest you keep this essay and reread it in about ten years. I don't know what will happen to publishers, agents, or writers, but I'm certain you'll be shocked at how timid you were.

In my files, I have several articles, written by industry insiders during the early days of microelectronics and personal computers, that demonstrate how conservative even experts are in anticipating the rate of change and that prove we cannot imagine the choices that the future will bring.

Oh, and by the way, if one person told two others, it would have to be repeated only a few dozen times ... not millions.

Josin L. McQuein said...

#7 would make a great comedy.
:-D
(I can say that as someone exceptionally likely to drop something in water as soon as I discover water will kill it... did you know that bleach water will destroy a cell phone? Now I do.)

Carly Tuma said...

Ha ha! I love #10.

Becca said...

Behold! Nice. And in response to the massive conspiracy, I definitely think that is the updated version of Fahrenheit 451.

Terri Coop said...

This post is covered in awesomesauce!

On another blog I frequent (yes, I cheat on you), a solid, successful midlister dropped a new book last week. In anticipation of the new book, his pub put his last book (the first in the series) on Kindle for free for a week.

What writer, agent, and editor didn't anticipate was when the week was up,the free book shot to the top of the paid ebook list and has stayed in the top ten for a month.

His new book debuted in the top 20 of the paid list and shows no sign of dropping off this list.

On Facebook and the blog, lurkers are popping up and saying they bought the Kindle editions and loving it.

You can buy the Kindle editions for $3.99 each and the MMPs are $7.99, so it is a two-fer deal.

I love ebooks and have informed my husband that his Christmas gift to me is an e-reader. I love short stories and anthologies. As magazines declined, so did the paying markets for short stories. I see ebooks reversing that trend.

I plan on Kindle-izing a series of my short stories that have been pubbed elsewhere. Mostly flash fiction. Like the commenter who likes that e-readers take off the upper limits, I am equally pleased that they also take off the lower limits.

So, I'll get a ziplock baggie in anticipation of the bathwater attack and well, #10 is going to happen no matter what, I might as well enjoy it!

Terri
www.whyifearclowns.com

Joe Iriarte said...

Here's a myth--or not--I'd like to see you address: electronic publishing will allow more people to get published, true, but the flipside of that virtually nobody will be able to make a living at it anymore. With more stories competing for readers, and supply driving price down (and Amazon driving price down) the only way to make more than, say, a thousand bucks on a novel will be if someone happens to make a movie of it.

Fawn Neun said...

As for libraries lending out downloaded eBooks, I believe they're required to subscribe to a digital aggregate service to do so, which provides a modest royalty to the publisher.

We publish digitally, but I still love paper books.

Kristina said...

Great post. I totally disagree with the guy above me. Most authors don't make much of a living off of writing as it is, and with is books being available at the click of a button I suspect reading will become more popular. I think it will even out, and since the author makes more money on the average e-book (because there is no printing cost to factor in), making a living out of writing will be the same as it has always been, or better. In fact, the chances of the book going viral are much higher when you it's so darned easy to get it and pass the info along.

Anonymous said...

"The advantage will still go to authors with platforms and those launched by major publishers."

Owing to the viral nature of the internet I'm seeing more one or two-hit wonders (and hits from newbie authors) on Kindle. Platform (backlist), although helpful, is less important. Individual gems are being discovered, and they are making their way onto Kindle bestseller lists.

Because of the viral nature of the medium (word of mouth carries a long way in the twitterdom), the major publisher marketing advantage (unless your publisher is Amazon - they do select the best and market them through Amazon Encore) is neutralized.

Ross Slater said...

Agree with all that you've said about the future of e-books (except for the crazy stuff about little mini e-books eating our brains, that will never happen - it's Multivac that we have to worry about...).

Thought you might like to have a perspective on the 3-Format Future of Books. There is something for everyone in this prediction, so we can all be happy and get what we individually want. Which is pretty cool.

http://www.highspotinc.com/blog/2010/06/the-3-format-future-of-books/

Anonymous said...

At a book signing, how does the author sign an e-book?

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent post, Mr. Agent Man.

I'm still in complete agreement with Mira. That hypnosis thing...um, it does wear off eventually, right, Mira?

Other Lisa: that's all true, I'm afraid, as is the fact that it's been known to prevent pregnancy only 99% of the time.

Ebooks are here. They are the future. They may not (I personally hope they won't) replace paper books, but they aren't going away, either.

And Amazon is offering 70% royalties to ebook authors. And building author platforms. And publishing (AmazonEncore). And invented the most popular ebook software (Kindle). And they'll be available on IPads and iPhones.

Amazon in a few swift moves became not only a major distributor of books, but THE major publisher in all formats...

I believe it is the traditional major publishers, who had pretty much thought they had the game fixed, who are most vocal about what's wrong with ebooks or a "lowering of standards" or whatever the complaint really is.

Or, I suppose, Behold! Baby ebooks may in fact be eating our brains. But a power outage will only kill the ebooks that aren't solar powered...

Terin Tashi Miller said...

To Anon with the brother at B&N: and yet, B&N's plan includes setting up its own ebook publishing digital platform: PubIt! (the exclamation isn't mine).

Anonymous said...

I don't know about #1, now or in the future. I'm sure many good books I would want to read are not finding me

Samantha said...

Just stumbled upon this site and have been reading past posts for hours. Thanks for the insight and the delightfully accessible way you present everything.

k10wnsta said...

Powell's Books is an amazing place and it's no surprise they're at the forefront of brick & mortar adaptation. I've never set foot in a building with a more remarkable assemblage of the printed word (and I've been in the Library of Congress).
When Powell's says they have 68,000 square feet packed with books, they mean PACKED...all organized into 3500 distinct sections over 3 floors across an entire city block. 3500 genres of literature...I've been in there several times and I still can't fathom it, but they're definitely there.

If you enjoy reading, make sure you put a (week-long) visit to Powell's on your bucket list. It truly is a remarkable place.

k10wnsta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
k10wnsta said...

Appending my post above, here's a .pdf map of the layout, but like the store itself, it's rather massive. If you don't have broadband (or you're on a smartphone or something), you might not want to fiddle with looking at it:

http://www.powells.com/
pdf/burnside_folding_map_2009.pdf

Kaitlyne said...

These cracked me up! Love #10. :)

Eric said...

Beheld. #10. Thank God the truth is out. Now I can relax and write while I await the imminent end of literature.

Scott Foley said...

#11... ebooks plug into our brains and we no longer read the words but experience the vision in the way the writer can at the moment of creation. Ooh, scary, but wouldn't that be kinda cool?

Haste yee back ;-) said...

BEHOLD! The true Constant of the Universe...

The best time to fish will still be dawn and dusk!

Haste yee back ;-)

Anonymous said...

@Simon Hay Healer

What was with the love song to Maggie Stiefvater? I thought we were talking about e-books here.

And just for the record, not everything thinks her work is great, sorry.

Dara said...

Great post. And thank goodness for #4. I go to the library more often than the bookstore. And in a silly, personal way, #4 makes me laugh a little since my first "real" job was actually at OverDrive, just before they became the largest supplier of eBooks to libraries.

Keetha said...

Richard Nash said in an interview that he thinks the mega chain bookstores may well disappear and a few indies will take their place. Those stores will become integrals part of the community. I love the sound of that.

I'm with you; I don't think the sky is falling. I posted about that today.

http://www.keetha.com/2010/07/weighing-in.html

Kim Batchelor said...

The question I continue to have about ereaders is, "What do we do those first %@* 30 minutes on a plane when the device has to be turned off?" Sit there quietly? I think not.

Still, I have an iPad.

Anonymous said...

The ebook technology creates a great opportunity for both writers and readers. Publishing no longer has to restrict itself by the physical limitations of physical books, physical bookstore and the need for physical storage and transportation. These limitations are the basis for the publishing industries gateway over what can be published.

In my opinion the publishing industry doesn’t have a great track record as a gatekeeper. I believe about 60% of published books do not make back their advance. That also means that many of the remaining 30% may not make back much more than their advance. So from an economic perspective they aren’t great pickers. However I don’t know if that is a personal critique or it is just not possible to be a good picker. Perhaps no matter whom you are, you can’t consistently pick winners in an “art” market.

From a “good book” perspective I think the publishing industry isn’t so great in the gate keeping arena either. People/readers are always saying how did that crummy book get published? And it doesn’t matter what book. Some people say it about book “x” and others about book “y”. What it comes down to is taste and everyone has their own taste and why should your taste be restricted by someone else’s taste?

Apparently a lot of people like to read what I consider to be crummy books. Well god bless em, who am I to tell them no?

With the advent of ebooks readers could now have access to books they would not be able to before and I think that is a good thing. And writers to a chance at an audience they might previously be denied. And it’s not just because a writer can easily self-publish and ebook, it’s because that ebook can sell for a lot less and so a lot more readers may be willing to give it a try.

I think the mainstream publishing industry is out to lunch. IMHO if they were smart they would open ebook divisions and publish in a more expeditious manner more books directly as ebooks, charge less for them, give no advances and a higher royalty. Don’t try to pick winners or books you like but publish anything with up to a certain moderate standard of credibility and let the readers decide. There could be different tracks for books that need more and less editing. And the publishing industry should bring back editing – editors who’s job it is to work on books with authors. Maybe they should start hiring people who only do that.

Ebooks also make it possible for authors to make more money: 60% of a $2 book will get you more than 12% of a hardcover when you only sell 2k of your hardcover at $17.99 and you sell 30k of your ebook at $2.

Mainstream publishing now does: hard-cover to soft-cover to ebooks. The have it backwards. It should be, and I think in the future will be, ebooks to soft-cover maybe and lastly hard-cover maybe. Publishing houses will not cease to exist but they will change and some of the now existing ones will close. Probably others will open. This will not happen over night.

I have worked in tech r&d (research and development). And this is how you get great results in r&d: you hire a lot of people, throw a lot of money at it and let people work on their ideas. You get a lot of crap, but you also get the gems. This is how America became great in technology, mostly by the government supporting r&d in Universities and big corporations. I believe it is the same with “art” you let people work on their ideas and let them bring them to market and let the market decide. Ebooks technology can allow this to happen.

Anonymous said...

The ebook technology creates a great opportunity for both writers and readers. Publishing no longer has to restrict itself by the physical limitations of physical books, physical bookstore and the need for physical storage and transportation. These limitations are the basis for the publishing industries gateway over what can be published.

In my opinion the publishing industry doesn’t have a great track record as a gatekeeper. I believe about 60% of published books do not make back their advance. That also means that many of the remaining 30% may not make back much more than their advance. So from an economic perspective they aren’t great pickers. However I don’t know if that is a personal critique or it is just not possible to be a good picker. Perhaps no matter whom you are, you can’t consistently pick winners in an “art” market.

From a “good book” perspective I think the publishing industry isn’t so great in the gate keeping arena either. People/readers are always saying how did that crummy book get published? And it doesn’t matter what book. Some people say it about book “x” and others about book “y”. What it comes down to is taste and everyone has their own taste and why should your taste be restricted by someone else’s taste?

Apparently a lot of people like to read what I consider to be crummy books. Well god bless em, who am I to tell them no?

With the advent of ebooks readers could now have access to books they would not be able to before and I think that is a good thing. And writers to a chance at an audience they might previously be denied. And it’s not just because a writer can easily self-publish and ebook, it’s because that ebook can sell for a lot less and so a lot more readers may be willing to give it a try.

I think the mainstream publishing industry is out to lunch. IMHO if they were smart they would open ebook divisions and publish in a more expeditious manner more books directly as ebooks, charge less for them, give no advances and a higher royalty. Don’t try to pick winners or books you like but publish anything with up to a certain moderate standard of credibility and let the readers decide. There could be different tracks for books that need more and less editing. And the publishing industry should bring back editing – editors who’s job it is to work on books with authors. Maybe they should start hiring people who only do that.

Ebooks also make it possible for authors to make more money: 60% of a $2 book will get you more than 12% of a hardcover when you only sell 2k of your hardcover at $17.99 and you sell 30k of your ebook at $2.

Mainstream publishing now does: hard-cover to soft-cover to ebooks. The have it backwards. It should be, and I think in the future will be, ebooks to soft-cover maybe and lastly hard-cover maybe. Publishing houses will not cease to exist but they will change and some of the now existing ones will close. Probably others will open. This will not happen over night.

I have worked in tech r&d (research and development). And this is how you get great results in r&d: you hire a lot of people, throw a lot of money at it and let people work on their ideas. You get a lot of crap, but you also get the gems. This is how America became great in technology, mostly by the government supporting r&d in Universities and big corporations. I believe it is the same with “art” you let people work on their ideas and let them bring them to market and let the market decide. Ebooks technology can allow this to happen.

Anonymous said...

oops sorry about the double post - computer glitch

Mira said...

Terin Tashi - Will the hypnosis wear off? I hope not. I paid 3.99 for that phamplet entitled: "How to hypnotize people by telling them they're sleepy." I want my money's worth!

I have noticed that we tend to agree on many things, though, so I'm not sure it matters. :)

Nicole said...

By the way, you ought to go play with the Barnes & Noble Nook - most of the books available are on the Lend Me program where you can lend your digital copies to friends and family. As long as they get the free eReader software (which works with just about anything), they can read the book.

Melanie said...

The only way I'll buy an e-reader of any kind is if they make them waterproof - not because I'm worried about the same bath water scenario you've come up with, but because I hate reading in the bath and having to hold my paperback at a strange angle to avoid getting the bottom of the pages wet. And heck, if they do that, maybe I'll just read in pools, in the ocean, in the rain... I'd consider these possibilities a true advantage.

Joe Iriarte said...

Psst . . . Melanie . . . Zip-Lock Bags . . . 1 Gallon Size.

;)

minawitteman said...

He feared the words. Yes, it had been the words that upset him for a long time now. Listening to the howling of the new dogs outside the fence, he pressed against the brick and mortar. There was no consolation this time. It used to be his safe haven, his sanctuary, but now the doors were tightly shut and it only seemed to push him away, ever closer to the fence and the world outside it. Frantically he leafed through his treasures, again. They gave off the slightest hint of printer's ink, but no answers, again.
Was he indeed doomed? Would the brick and mortar crush him into submission to the new dogs and their words?

Tahereh said...

this is reason #94574386525424523765453 why you are awesome.

Anonymous said...

Behold!

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Good rebuffs to myths. (I think myths persist in part because people find fun in making doomsday predictions.)

Anonymous said...

Good article but I didn't like the rainbow video.

TaosJohn said...

As I just published a book of personal Taos stories on Amazon Kindle, the issue of reviews for ebooks suddenly becomes more relevant.

Seems like someone is missing a terrific opportunity here. Googling "ebook reviews" brings up a few sites, but nothing truly trustworthy or authoritative. (BTW, if anyone out there wants a review PDF, just holler.) I would be happy to correspond with anyone who has ideas in this area and share the meager information I possess.

In the meantime, Nathan, thank you for this post. I've bookmarked your blog and will return!

TaosJohn said...

Exactly what I was NOT talking about!

http://ljsellers.com/wordpress/the-new-gatekeepers

(HT to @mikecane)

Short Thoughts said...

Thanks for the sanity, even amidst the humor.

Christina Katz said...

Hi Nathan,

Excellent list. Thanks so much.

King County Library (suburban Seattle) offers e-readers, I believe. I was told that they are for the folks who need the big-print books...because of course that can be easily done on an e-reader, right?

Program coordinator Deborah Schneider was the one who suggested the move, if memory serves.

Anonymous said...

Behold!

Yet I myself am impartial to Lo!

Not to be confused with Lol.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Well done, Nathan. Not sure about how you can shoot down "future myths" with any certainty but at least you are acknowledging what a lot of people in your position don't want to hear.
But I also predict the platforms created by co-op and major publisher push will become less important in the next decade, as the audience starts anointing bestsellers instead of advance money pre-determining them. You hit on it with the rainbow guy but that will become the way more authors make it than the other way. In other words, hype will trump quality every single time, just as it does today.

Scott Nicholson
http://www.hauntedcomputer.com

Alexander said...

Re: cost of ebook readers making literature an elite privilege. Undoubtedly at a certain point there will be more opportunities to buy used ebook readers. Presently, a laptop that sells for $1000 new goes for under $200 on ebay a couple years later.

Also I thought your opening was funnier if you stopped at the end of the first paragraph ;)

Julie Wright said...

I can't say a little literal once fast. Good post. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

E-book readers continue to drop in price. New Kindle is $139. That's almost affordable.

cara said...

I think that ebooks will change how we teacher. I will no longer have to go to the teacher supply stores and get my curriculum guides. I think that it is wonderful.

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