Resist the e-Revolution?

I just read this week about the bankruptcy of the nation’s second largest retail book chain, Borders.  I have also read recently that the popularity of e-books is growing at a significant rate and that many are forecasting the demise of the traditional bookstore.

Is this true?  Are books made of cardboard and paper with full color jackets going the way of the dodo bird?  What does this mean for writers?

To be honest, I don’t know the answers to these questions.

What I do know is that options for readers to obtain the books they want are increasing with the e-book format.  Imagine being at the beach and you just finished reading a great novel.  Now what?  Well, if you were prepared you would put the novel back in your bag and withdraw another book and start reading.  If you were not prepared you could either do something else or pack up and drive to the nearest bookstore in your swimsuit and flip-flops and buy something new to read.

Or, if you have an e-reader, you simply open up your memory file and select another book and off you go.  If you don’t have a book you want to read in your memory, you can search online and download a new book in a couple of minutes (assuming you have 3G or Wi-Fi connections available).

Either way, you have options, choices.

Have you ever been to a bookstore and they were sold out of a book you wanted to read or didn’t carry it in stock?  What did you do?  Buy something else, shop at a different store, or actually go to the library to borrow the book (good luck finding new releases)?

This happened to me last month.  We took the kids to the local Barnes and Noble to buy them each a book and they didn’t have the book I wanted, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.  So, I ordered it at the store and had to wait four days for it to ship to my house.  It was inconvenient, but I was willing to wait.

Of course, if I had owned an iPad or Nook or Kindle, I would have been able to purchase and download the book from an unlimited inventory in minutes.  No shortages, no out of stock, no sold out, no driving, no lines, no waiting.

Alas, I still prefer the tactile feel of a traditional book in my hands and paper pages to turn.  I like the heft of a big door-stopper epic fantasy.  At over 1000 pages, The Way of Kings is a big book.  Also, fantasy books tend to have paintings by famous artists as covers and additional inside cover art, maps, and diagrams that don’t yet translate well, in my opinion, to pages depicted in black and white e-ink.  The iPad is full color and is changing the landscape, but many of us don’t have $500 to plunk down for a reading device, when you can order many best sellers and new releases online for less than 20 bucks in traditional format.

So, that’s me.  I read real books.  I was a late adopter of cell phones, blogs, and more recently Facebook, so I will probably wait to get an e-reader as well.

As for the impact on authors and should I pursue publication via the old school big publishers or self-publish electronically and keep more of the profits, I don’t know.  I need to write a complete book first.  I’ll address that issue in a future post when I’m closer to the decision point of how to best market my work.

So, anyone out there know of someone who has successfully self-published e-book fiction and made a real go of it?  Is there still sufficient reason to go traditional with agent, editor, publisher and get a professionally produced book for  a much smaller slice of the profits?

You tell me.

Also, today’s post includes a poll about what format you like to read…please tell us your current and/or future preference.  You already know mine.

–Mark

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7 responses to “Resist the e-Revolution?

  • blue biRd EveninGs are Good

    Good post I found it rather awesome

  • Nick

    Resistance is futile! haha as you know i don’t read very much. This is probably mainly due to the Xbox and flat screen TV in my room. 😉 But i think that if it was as convenient as the nook or kindle I would definitely have to read more often. No book stores, no lines, no people. Sounds good to me! As for publication I think that that’s a pretty good toss-up. On one hand with a publisher you can have more publicity, but by yourself you could have more freedom, less (if any) contracts, all the profit, it will also give you a better sense of accomplishment. I would personally self-publish. 😉

  • MJT

    There are definitely both pros and cons to self-publishing e-books. There have even been some e-book breakout bestsellers, like Amanda Hocking, see her at http://amandahocking.blogspot.com/.

    But, you have to “know” your writing is at a professional level or at least have professional editing before going it alone, otherwise you could hurt your career by self-publishing material that isn’t quite ready for the market.

    With traditional publishers, your work gets vetted by agents and editors and so reaches a minimum level of professionalism before being sold to the public.

    At least it creates options and this is good for writers and readers.

  • butchie34

    I find myself wondering some of the same things. In fact, the UK releases wihch we get here in SA are all in black and white (except for the covers which are nowhere near as good as the US versions). I ordered the Way of Kings from the US and finished reading it last week. Very good book although the middle was a little slow but that’s to be expected.

    The US version has beautiful colour panels inside while the UK version doesn’t have these panels or the colour maps represented in black and white at all. Over all the presentation of the US version much better than the UK version.

    Actually believe I’m going to shift over to buying all my books direct from the US so I get the better looking versions.

    • MJT

      I’m not ready to give up the look and feel of an actual book for my primary reading. I’ve done some e-reading on my iPhone, having downloaded and read the early Sherlock Holmes novels and that was fun, because I could read anywhere and almost at anytime. That was especially convenient when waiting for a movie to start in the theater or waiting in line at a store. Just pull out the phone and read a few pages. Hard to do with an actual book that won’t fit in your pocket.

  • Deal heard round the world… « Arcane Roads

    […] A few weeks ago I discussed the e-revolution, especially the advent of e-reader devices such as the Kindle, Nook, and iPad.  The original post, if you missed it, is here. […]

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