Monday, February 13, 2012

Is It About Books, or Is It About Novels?

The ground is shifting under our feet, as the publishing industry is still dealing with the biggest shift in production and distribution since Gutenberg.  This is not news, of course.  We all know that Things Are Going To Change.  It's just anybody's guess as to exactly how.

Rachelle Gardner wrote an interesting piece today touching on this point, comparing where the book industry might be headed to the recently-filed-for-bankruptcy Kodak.  Her main point was Kodak focused on selling the physical printed image of a photograph, and not on the real content people were most interested in: the image itself.

The same applies for novels.  While there are, and will continue to be, die hard real-printed-book lovers, the important product is the content, the novel itself.  People who want to read a novel will read it in the format that is most convenient to them, period.   If that's in a printed book (purchased at brick-and-mortar, shipped via website or borrowed at a library), or a Kindle or Nook or other reader, it doesn't REALLY matter.  The thing that matters the most is the content, and as long as the content-delivery system is convenient, the reader doesn't care as much.

Does this mean I'm saying Real Books are out and E-Books are in, so everyone should get with the program?  Not at all.  As of right now, my primary goal is "traditional" publication.  That means printed books in book stores. 

Is that out of some sort of psychological need to, say, have a real printed book that I can hold in my hadn?  I won't deny there's an appeal to that.  You work hard to make something, having that thing you can actually hold, point to on a shelf, hand over to another person-- that physicality has meaning.  Impact.  But that's not the only reason.  It's not even the primary reason. 

At least right now, E-Books are only 5-10% of the book sale market. (From what I understand- please correct me if I have my numbers wrong).  So putting out your book exclusively in a format that ignores 90-95% of the current reading market is ridiculous. This is the key reason why I'm not so keen to stampede over to ePublishing my work.

Now, these numbers may change, and when they do, the industry needs to be moving with it.  One has to ride the wave of the sea change or drown. 

1 comment:

Daniel Fawcett said...

An important consideration is that technology changes are rapid, and organic. If you had said, say, six years ago that you were getting into green tech, you would have had investors throwing money at you. But not, with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, natural gas is cheaper than solar or wind (so far).

To then bring it back to your point, something might come along at any moment, and suddenly make my Kindle completely obsolete. If I had been an early adopter of publishing in eBook format, I'd be screwed.

WIRED magazine had a thing about that a few months back... I guess technologists are calling it "leapfrogging." Some people hold out so long on a new technology that they miss out on it entirely.... and jump straight into a new, better, and even more stable tech. The example they gave is that some people held onto their cassette tape walkmans, never needing to get a portable CD player, and then skipped the portable CD player altogether, jumping straight into mp3 players. I am actually in that category.