Thursday, October 14, 2010

A revolution, but books will not die

Another end-of-the-worlder talking about how ebooks are killing print books:

My response...

Yes, it's a revolution, and things have already changed. Good or bad, it's here, and one can get swept under by the tsunami, or grab a surfboard and give it a good ride.

First of all, books are not going away. They'll still be around, with people who like them. While fewer books may be printed and sold because of ebooks, it may not necessarily mean fewer readers or less profit for a writer.

Old Model- I hear of a writer, walk into a bookstore (and assuming I've got the stomach to wade through the steaming dung piles of ghostwritten celebrity “books” foisted on us by big publishers), pay $25 for a book. The writer gets $1-$2 of that, paid 6-12 months (or more) afterward.

New Model- I hear of a writer, go to their website, read a sample they've put up, and buy the ebook for $3. That's right, $3, not the overcharging for ebooks the publishers are currently doing. And the writer still gets $1-$2, but gets it far sooner than a publishing house is going to give it up. And if I like it, I'll buy more (and recommend it to others), because the price is good. And if it's really good, I'll pick up print copies anyway.

I'm middle class, and can't afford the $25 each for the hundred or so books a year that I read. So I'm already getting them from the library or the discount bins, for which the writer gets zilch. The only time I'll fork over big bucks for a new book is at a signing, or for writers I'm keen to collect (established brands).

So with ebooks, the writer has a much better chance of being read and getting direct profit from me, because I'll take a chance for $3, and if the book sucks, I'm not outraged at being ripped off.
This revolution is a reverse of the Industrial Revolution. There, the cottage industries, such as home weavers, were put out of work by economies of scale and machines that could produce more goods cheaper and faster. Now we have behemoth, bloated publishing houses getting put out of work because the little cottage industry can produce a book, printed or electronically, cheaper and faster. How ironic.

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