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Summary:

Though e-books seem likely to induce consolidation amongst the major publishing houses, with the risk of leaving midlist authors out in the cold, one such author looks at the bright side: e-books represent an additional revenue stream and a chance to control his own destiny.

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The concept of the virtual book has finally captured the reading public’s imagination thanks to portable and convenient devices such as the Kindle, Nook, iPad and Kobo. e-books aren’t new. They’ve been around for a decade or so in some form or another, but the convenience and portability of the current crop of e-readers has caused a massive shift in attitudes. Amazon and Barnes & Noble (bks) can probably thank the digital music revolution and everyone’s reliance on multifaceted smartphones for the acceptability of virtual content. The upshot is the e-book has arrived and it’s here to stay.

Naturally, the popularity of e-books has a lot of people worried. Should this format take over as the dominant medium for books, publishers will be forced to re-examine their place in the world. And if publishers suffer, so do the writers. The problem is even more worrying for bookstores, which face redundancy with the demise of the printed book.

So as a midlist author, what does all this mean to me? Change, but change I can work with. I’ve seen a lot of side-taking amongst my writing brethren. You’re either sticking with a dead technology or you’re part of a brave new world. Personally, I don’t see why I have to pick a side. Maybe I’m greedy, but why can’t I have both? I view e-books the same way I view audio books or foreign translations: They’re another revenue stream. To choose one over another seems a little short-sighted. If the public demands e-books, print books and audio books, I want my stories in all those formats. e-books are a new source of income for me, so I love ‘em, and no less than any other format that my books are currently published in.

So, I’ve embraced e-books for a number of reasons. First off, e-publishing has a very low barrier to entry. I don’t have to deal with a printer, distribution, getting into stores, or returns, nor do I need access to a recording studio to produce an audio book. All I have to do is format the manuscript to meet the needs of the various e-book-reading devices, and can have an e-book-ready manuscript in a couple of hours. The only real cost comes in the form of cover art, and that’s not much of a hardship. Even if I’m purchasing stock images or commissioning original artwork, I can pull together a professional-looking product for under $100.

Secondly, I don’t need a publisher for an e-book. As a midlist author, I’m used to having to play a number of roles and managing my e-book portfolio isn’t a hardship, especially when I can reap the reward of a larger royalty. Thirdly, I get to utilize a sizeable backlist that would be gathering dust under normal circumstances. I possess a number of out-of-print works that aren’t financially viable for a new print run, but are viable to resurrect as e-books. The same applies to stories where the electronic rights haven’t been utilized. I’d be a fool not to embrace e-book publishing.

I don’t really know where the e-book revolution will go. It might be a tougher proposition to replace the printed book than people might think. I believe printed books will be around for some time. There’s probably going to be even more consolidation among the publishers, which will limit places for midlist authors, but even that’s not the end of the world. It might not be financially viable for the big publishing houses to support midlisters, but that isn’t to say there isn’t profit to be made. Advances in technology when it comes to book manufacturing and audio production means it’s pretty cost-effective to produce a print book or an audio book. Orphaned writers might want to take a leaf out of W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks’ collective book when they created United Artists and formed author cooperatives to produce their own print, audio and e-books. The potential is there.

And before anyone gets too complacent about e-books, who’s to say that in five years something else won’t come along make the e-book redundant? That’s technology.

The e-book revolution might affect the publishing industry with devastating consequences, but the important thing for me to do as a writer is roll with the punches. The one constant in all this change is that the world will always need storytellers regardless of the medium.

Simon Wood has had over 150 stories and articles published. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, such as Seattle Noir, Thriller 2 and Woman’s World. He’s a frequent contributor to Writer’s Digest. His latest works are “Terminated” and “Asking for Trouble.”

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  1. Great article thank you. As bright shiny new ebook authors we can only be encouraged by your perceptions regarding the future of ebooks.

    Hug after Blooming Hug
    Sherry and Margarita

  2. I’m glad you liked the piece, Viv.

  3. E-Book News Roundup (incl. New, Free, and Powerful eBook Format Conversion Tool; Death of Physical Book; Enhanced eBooks, and More) « ResourceShelf Sunday, August 8, 2010

    [...] + e-Books From an Author’s Point of View (By Simon Wood via GigaOm) [...]

  4. More in royalties? If the number of print copies is substantially reduced due to its being available digitally, and if the amount of money each digital copy generates since it does, after all, not require paper and printing to publish it, your revenue might be less than you would expect.

    From what I’ve been reading. many people still prefer the ‘feel’ and ‘smell’ of paper. It may be some time before the balance swings in favor of digital.

  5. I agree with you, Don. I don’t believe that ebooks will take over as the dominant reading format as swiftly as being predicted by others, and I said as much. Like I said in the article, I view ebooks as an additional revenue stream, not a replacement. Should print books disappear, I have something to work with. If they don’t disappear, it’s business as usual for me.

  6. I love my iPad. It has almost completely replaced my personal computer. For the things I do… It is perfect!
    e-booke is my favorite one.
    You can see the details in “iFunia ipad Column”.

  7. Pros:
    1. Portability
    2. If you want to find something. You can just hit the search button.
    3. cheaper
    4. Infinite lifespan
    5. you can have several backups
    Cons
    1. Piracy
    2. if the battery of your device drained it’s over
    3. I love the smell of books. period!

  8. A Writer Looks at the eBook Revolution « eBook Rumors Monday, August 9, 2010

    [...] has a post by author Simon Wood on the writer’s view of digital publishing. I’d have to say [...]

  9. Great to read a perspective on e-book technology from an author. As a reader, I buy hard cover books once in while, paperbacks more often, and go to the library sometimes. I also pay for newspapers and magazines.

    I’m waiting for someone (a “next-gen” publisher?) to figure out how to give me a eBook machine for some kind of monthly/annual aggregate spend.

  10. justin bryan Monday, August 9, 2010

    I am agree with article points, now ebooks reading are increased rapidly after the new portable devices introduces. Thanks to sharing your points with us.

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