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Thursday, 5 August 2010

eBooks - the state of play

The Archive has been following the eBook evolution from its nerdy beginnings to its current mainstream position. Personally I welcome this development and whilst I know many other writers are scared of the consequences of eBooks dominating the market, I'm comfortable with it and feel that electronic books will be good for the entire writing and publishing industries. Once everything settles down that is.

Indeed I entered the eBook world myself this year when my novel, A Policeman's Lot was published by Solstice Publishing. It's still available folks, instant download and can be read on mostly any platform, including the computer screen - click on the image left to buy. It's also priced fairly and is nowhere near as costly as a conventional book.

Many writers are worried about piracy and whilst this will obviously occur I don't think it will be as much of a problem as many seem to fear. At the moment the most pirated author on the planet is Stephenie Meyer and she seems to be doing okay out of it.

Ebook sales are experiencing over 100% year-to-year growth. E-readers such as Kindle and Sony E-reader are selling like hotcakes.But from what I can see the biggest problem at the moment is the traditional book publishers - many of them are charging the same price for an eBook as its hardcover equivalent, which is blatantly ripping off the public. They are also holding back the electronic edition until the hardcover completes its sales cycle. If anything will encourage eBook piracy then it is these two policies.

Like it or not there has been a gradual decline in reading over the last twenty years or so and if these new fangled eBooks encourage people to read again then more power to them. Though the current state of the eBook market is troubling because Amazon are dominating. Not that Amazon do a bad job - far from it and their Kindle device is awesome but all the same it is not healthy for one company to rule an entire market. That's what has happened with conventional book publishing - several massive conglomerates dominate and smaller independent publishers struggle to find an identity with the book buying public. This must not happen with eBooks.

For every 100 hardback books sold by over the past three months 143 Kindle eBooks have been sold, according to new figures released by the company.The online retailer, which recently lowered the cost of its Kindle reader, says for the past month the figure increases to 180 digital books for every 100 hardbacks.Figures also show that the retailer had sold more than three times as many Kindle books in the first half of 2010 as in the first half of 2009.

So what for the future? Well I don't think conventional books will ever vanish but  it is likely that in another year or so eBooks will dominate the book market in the way MP3'S now dominate the music industry. It is also not that much of a stretch to see a new period of creativity when writers are set free of the constraints imposed by conventional publishing. Sure there will be a lot of self published rubbish out there but then that's always been the case and whilst eBooks may make vanity publishing easier, quality will always win out.

"I think we [Amazon] will sell more Kindle books than paperback books in the next year [2011]",   Steve Kessel, the man tasked with making the Kindle the number one ebook reader.

The cover artwork for Digital Edge
Another interesting development is that long out of print titles can be brought back into print easily with the electronic format - I'm proud to be personally involved in bringing back the hugely popular Edge western series - over 18 million copies sold back in the day. And I'm sure there are many other classic series that could do well once again if some enterprising publishers decides to follow suit. The paperback dominated for many years and there are scores of paperback originals that have been out of print for decades. I'd personally love the option of buying these past masters on eBook.

So maybe us book lovers should not be horrified by the thought of all that beloved paper, card and glue being replaced by an eInk screen and jump for joy at the next development in the evolution of the book. There are people who say eBooks are soulless, but this argument falls flat - the soul of a book is in the story, the writing and not the medium upon which it is presented. 


Frank Loose said...

Interesting observations. I am actually entertaining buying a Kindle. The lowered price for the small model, coupled with curiosity, is moving me in that direction. I've been reading, albeit slowly, a book i downloaded onto my iPhone. I always have a book with me for those occasions with i find myself with some free time to kill. Small page, yes, but readable. So, that tells me the full sized e-readers are probably just dandy. However, i don't see myself reading my favorite authors on e-readers, at least not right away. I still love the feel of a book in my hands.


Frank - I'm a huge book lover myself and will never part with the library I've built up over the years. But I must admit once you've read a book or two on the eReaders it becomes second nature. And the eInk display really does mimic paper.