Thanks to everyone who chimed in for what has been a really fascinating discussion on yesterday’s post. I wanted to follow up a bit on some of the issues your coming e-book overlords pose.
It’s interesting, first, to compare yesterday’s discussion to one we had just in November about the Kindle… seems like people are coming around to the idea that e-books are here to stay. For real this time. As pjd pointed out, resistance to the idea of e-books is somewhat similar to people in 1995 saying they would never switch to e-mail because it’s so much more impersonal than a handwritten note.
There are still quite a few people who are swayed by the benefits of the paper book (portability, cost, permanence), which are not easily matched by e-readers, and which will slow whatever change is coming. Clearly we’ll have a climate in the foreseeable future where there is both e-books and physical books. I still believe that if there’s a tipping point it will be when people are able to read e-books easily on their smart phones or whatever device people already own, rather than having to buy a dedicated device.
So where does the author (and agent) fit into this?
We’ll see. But don’t write an obituary for anyone just yet.
In terms of how authors will make money in this new environment — as some have pointed out, the margins of e-books have the potential to maintain a basic level of revenue for authors, whether they’re used as promotional devices or as a primary source of income. But whatever the model, it does seem like there will be constant downward pressure on prices, and as Krugman points out, ancillary income is going to become increasingly important.
Now, I don’t think authors are going to be selling t-shirts and charging admission to readings. But subrights are more important than ever, and having an agent who can sell film rights, foriegn rights, audio, serial, etc. etc. is going to become even more essential. There are more avenues than ever, and it takes a great deal of expertise to manage that process. And that’s what a good agent is for.