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Saturday, 14 August 2010

Why writers should embrace the digital future

The Luddites are massing, becoming more and more vocal in their distrust of the emerging digital technology - they worry about piracy, losing control of their work, becoming swallowed up amongst the inevitable dirge of self published books. For decades now the paperback format has dominated mass market fiction and yet for years, as a business model it hasn't been working - we only ever heard about the sales but we are seldom told about the returns and the thousands upon thousands of unsold books that are pulped each year. For years the publishers have had control of the market and can make or break a writer. They can also control what is being published and decisions to reject a work are not always made on grounds of quality.

eBooks, love them or loath them, will liberate writers - they will enable writers to reach markets previously impossible to crack. And although it is unlikely that eBooks will ever totally replace paper books they will dominate the market and current indications are that this will happen sooner rather than later.

Cost-effective: As ebooks are online downloads, there are no shipping costs and  far less costs that would generally be associated with physical wholesale distribution therefore resulting in generally lower costs to purchase an ebook as opposed to its paperback cousin. Or at least that's the way it should be in theory.

 Environmentally friendly: For every ebook purchased instead of a paperback, that brings the world one step closer to saving more trees from being cut down and turned into books. If in future society moves closer to replacing the majority of paperbacks with ebooks this could help eliminate at least a portion of our natural resource consumption.

E-books are down with the kids.  This is a very important point and if the new hi-tech gadgets help younger readers develop the habit of reading then this outweighs all the criticism.  And has multi-media starts to be incorporated into eBooks attracting younger readers could be easier. In may sound gimmicky but imagine children's books with animated cover images - now that's going to look incredibly cool to a ten year old and may sow the seeds for a lifetime of reading pleasure. And reading is immensely pleasurable but if you don't do it then you'll never discover this universal truth.

As writers we shouldn't be running scared of the eBook revolution, nor should we be comparing eBooks to the printed versions. What we should be doing is embracing this new medium and seeing it as another way of getting our work onto the market.


Steve M said...

Interesting that you mention children as we've had a 12 year old stay over for a few days who loves reading books. When asked if she'd like to read them on an eReader instead of in paper form she almost yelled, "no way!"

This also brought up a discussion on books for very young readers where parts of pages pop-up (books the kids love so much and read over and over again), can't see this happening on an eReader.


Steve - I remember those pop up books or course such a format could become all singing all dancing in the electronic books, just not literally pop up , of course.

Matthew P. Mayo said...

Your case is well stated, Gary. And e-books make sense on so many levels. But....

It would make for an interesting post if you were to state all the negative aspects of them, too, for there are a good many--even if some are perceived (which doesn't make them any less legitimate a concern for authors).

E-book piracy is a real concern, for example. The instances of it are numerous and it's becoming a big problem. Who is most affected? Authors.

So, if authors are slow to jump on this fandango bandwagon, there are a good many reasons.

Perhaps a survey? Guest posts? Could make for an interesting series of posts.

It's a two-sided coin and it's still spinning in the air.



Matt - great idea. I'll set this up next week. So come one guys what are the cons of the eBook movement?