As the Kindle 2 is unveiled, the buzzword in publishing is e-book, e-book, e-book.
It’s the only segment of the industry in which sales are growing, and this phenomenon has some readers worried (“I’ll miss the feel and smell of a new book”) while others are delighted (“The environmental benefits are worth the sacrifice”).
But what does it mean to authors? Speculation on that front is rampant as well.
- “More new authors will be published because the production costs are so minimal.”
- “Author advances will disappear, and it will be more difficult to earn a living as a novelist.”
- “If you don’t have an e-book, you’re missing a whole section of the market.”
All three scenarios could come true.
Another interesting question: Will e-books fall into the same categories—traditionally published versus self-published—that print books do? Will novels from well established e-publishers automatically carry more prestige than an e-book from Author Unknown? I read a post today that stated unequivocally that one of the benefits of publishing an e-book is: “You don’t have to go through the obstacles and headaches involved in finding an agent and a publisher.”
What about distribution? If you don’t go though the headache of finding an e-book publisher, how will anyone find and buy your book? Just because your book is downloadable from your website or for sale on Amazon doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have buyers. The production quality and file choice matter too. You want your e-book to be downloadable to, and nicely displayed on, the major e-readers: Kindle, Sony Reader Digital, and Mobipocket Reader.
I’ve thought about all of this because I’ve considered self-publishing some of my early novels as e-books. Then I decided against it because the benefit would be minimal, and who needs the stigma of being a self-published e-book author? I know that statement will rile some people, but the attitude exists, whether valid or not. Well known authors, on the other hand, could probably do quite well selling e-books from their own websites.
Ultimately, as an author, I want to have all my books available both in print and e-files from traditional publishers with established distribution (and web traffic). But the publishing industry is changing and becoming much less clearly defined. As e-book sales grow and become a sizable chunk of the market, some of the old distinctions may disappear.
What do you think? Are e-books the future? And does it matter who produces them?