Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Opinion on eBooks and the Future of Publishing

So, this seems to be a hot button topic around the camp fires of Facebook and Twitter. Bloggers and writers all over the place are throwing in their two cents, both professional and unpublished. Publishers, editors and agents have also said their piece regarding the matter. But, still, I see people running around the internet like chickens with their heads cut off, crying that the sky of publishing is falling, and eBooks are going to tear down book stores brick by brick.

So, given all that, I figured why not throw in my two cents as well? Likely, they’ll just get lost amidst the rest of the change out there, but hey, this is my blog, so what the hell.

If this all sounds a little skewed in the direction that I don’t buy the hype that traditional publishing is going away, that would be essentially the truth. But not all of it. Let me start with something simple.

Traditional publishing IS going to go away. The same way that horse and buggies were driven out of business by the automobile. But, it’s not going to happen tomorrow. Or even in the next few years. And the publishing industry is not just going to fold up and die, not all of it anyway. They’re going to adapt to new technology, and switch their model of business to accept it. Those houses that don’t, those are the ones that will die.

But, here’s something that I think a lot of people look over. The real reason that traditional, paper books are not going to disappear the way of the 8-track. People like books. A lot of people like books. Different kinds of people like books, for different reasons. And here’s one that I think a lot of us that are on the internet regularly forget.

eBook Readers are expensive.

That’s right. That Kindle I have sitting next to me as I write this? $130. That’s a lot of money, when you consider that a book is around $10. Sure, I know the argument, it’s a one time payment and then all your books are only $4. But, most people can’t put up that $130 investment. They won’t. It’s a lot of money. $10 isn’t so bad, so they’ll spend that on the book they want. Plus, books can be traded at a used book store for more books. An eReader can’t.

Now, that said, I do believe that eReaders are the eventual future of this industry. And yes, there were be new avenues for up and coming authors to publish in. But, the publishing industry will continue to be what they are now. Protectors of good books. They are the ones that filter through all the crap to find the good stuff and then put it out there for our consumption. They will continue to do that in the eBook era.

Yes, I have no doubt that there will be lots of self publishing options available, but at some point, most people will realize that if they don’t want to spend the time to filter through crap to find the good stuff, here’s a publishing house that does it for them.

And this, my friends, is why the book and the publishing industry are not going to go away.

At least, in my opinion.


  1. Print books will become like Vinyl records. A small sub culture will insist that they are the premium experience, but most people will have switched to buying them on their digital reader of choice.

    Keep in mind that most smartphones have Kindle, Nook, and iBooks as free apps - so the $130 reader is only required if your smartphone screen is too small for you. As tablets become more prevalent, the prices will continue to drop, and the $100 investment for a multi-purpose tablet will seem a lot lower.

  2. An interesting metaphor... I was thinking after writing this that it's more like movies. eBooks are like DVD/BlueRay and the book stores will become like Movie Theaters. They will lose business, and probably end up charging more for paper books, but I don't think they're going away.

  3. The incredible thing about it, to me at least, is that all books are inherently eBooks before they can become mass market print books. Some hardcore writer might still be typing it up on an old fashioned typewriter (I cant imagine any get away with turning in something handwritten), but some editor's assistant turns it into a word doc that gets commented on and modified before it goes to print. Turning that into an eBook is a matter of writing a good macro (maybe at most creating a program to do it).

    So, its not like it will be difficult for publishers to make both available. They just dont want to right now, because systems like the NY Times top 100 list dont count eBooks (and a split audience might keep you off said list).

  4. I still prefer to read print books, tho' if I could afford it and if an e-reader does not create any kind of "monitor glare", I would switch right now. I am mindful of lugging about 200lbs worth of books from California to TN and that was not fun.

  5. Hey RL, there's a good point in that. My wife works at a university, and most, if not all, the students have, at most, a lap top and a eReader of some kind (Kindle, iPad, Nook). They can get $200 worth of text books for $75 and carry it all in a 12 ounce package.