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?

  1. I think ebooks are here to stay. Print books may someday disappear except in museums, but I don’t think any of us will be alive to see it. But times are changing. I also think there will come a way to distinguish unedited ebooks from those that have been through some kind of editing filter. It always happens in society. But it may be that the dividing line will be more in genres or tastes. For example, there are a lot of underground or off-beat newspapers. That doesn’t necessarily make them worse than the bigger established papers. It makes them different with a different audience. Perhaps that’s the way it will shake out for ebooks. Some of the more established ebook publishers may begin to filter the books they publish and there will come a time when those will be like the print publishers of today.

  2. Well, I’m an ebook author and an ebook addict. I think they’re here to stay. Paper books will still be around for a long time to come, but ebooks will eventually take over. They’re more environmentally friendly and convenient.

    Joan De La Haye

  3. Short of a global cataclysm, the crash of the internet and a return to the dark ages, ebooks, sadly (to this old dinosaur at least), ARE the future of literature. It will be interesting to see how the industry develops – I really don’t have any concrete answers to your well put questions. I know I can’t make a living on the piddly royalties I get from the sales of the ebook versions of my books.

  4. This past Saturday I went to a chapter meeting which is recognized by the RWA. There are a few of the big houses now in the process of doing e-books. I don’t remember which ones. It’s becoming a better avenue for writers I do believe.

  5. I like the idea of all authors starting out with an ebook for their new titles, and when the downloads justify it, a printed collector edition (using POD technology) is issued for all the personal libraries out there that want the real thing. If enough of those paperbacks sell, then a hardback mega-collector edition is justified. This is the opposite of what has traditionally happened, but my scenario makes much more sense I think.


  6. I think ebooks are great but i personally would be too distracted by email, twitter, blog, etc…
    nothing like hiding away with a soft pillow and a warm blanket and a good book that is written on paper 🙂

  7. I think all new things come with a certain stigma because it’s different than the norm. As I’ve always told my son, different doesn’t mean bad. It’s just different and being different is a good thing–it means you’re thinking and trying new things.

    As far as e-books? I think some form of electronic books are going to be the way much is published in the future. I also think, as with music and movies, it’s not a bad thing, it’s smart and less cluttered. This gadget oriented generation loves having everything on their ipods or mp3 players so I don’t think it’s going away. I do think, just as with the movies and music producers, traditional publishers are going to find a way to control much of it for their own profit.

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