Monday, July 19, 2010

You don't scare me, Kindle!

By Guest Blogger Dana Stabenow

Kindle. eReader. EZReader. The Alex. The Que. The Nook, iRex, Plastic Logic.

Every time a new e-reader debuts, the book world hurls itself into a panic.“…[P]ublishers are distracting themselves by fretting over the price of eBooks, withholding eBook releases so as not to cannibalize hardcover book sales, and watching helplessly as their businesses erode,” Reuters quoted Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps. (RedOrbit.com).

So. Is this the end of the book? Am I about to be out of a job? Man, I was just getting started here.

I’m bucking the trend. I don’t think so.

The October 25 Sunday New York Times wrote, “Amazon says Kindle owners buy 3.1 times as many books as they did before getting one. Sony says its e-book users are also inspired. “You are going to see very significant growth rates,” said Jeffrey P. Bezos, the head of Amazon.

Gen Xers were raised reading on screens, and that’s how many of them are now reading books. Further, the explosion of online social networking and personal and professional blogs is accustoming many in the baby boomer generation to the habit of reading onscreen. An e-format book is going to look more familiar and reassuring every time they log on to Facebook.

I myself recently downloaded a Great Books app to my iPhone, and guess what? If I were stuck in an airport waiting for a late plane and I’d accidentally packed my book in my checked baggage (it’s happened, and the horror), I could reread Pride and Prejudice on my iPhone just fine. It scrolls past at a speed I set in a font I choose and I’ve got over 150 public domain titles from which to pick, including all of Sherlock Holmes and The Three Musketeers plus both sequels. If I were toting all that around in book form my bag would never fit into the overhead bin. Not to mention what it would do to my back trying to get it there.

So I’m selling my Star Svensdotter and Liam Campbell novels, long out of print, on Kindle and iPhone, and as soon as I get five minutes I’m going to get tech-friendly with uploading all my out-of-print titles, including short stories, for sale on all the other e-devices as well.

As I was writing this post, I checked the iTunes App store book page. The number one free app? Kindle for iPhone. Number two? The B&N eReader. As it happens, I don’t need either one of them because my app has its own built-in reader. And it and all the books it comes with cost me the magnificent sum of $1.99. At that price, you think I won’t buy more?

Eric over at Pimp My Novel says, “These cheap books might be the death of publishing, book sharing might be the death of publishing, Stephen King is delaying his e-book because e-books are the death of publishing…is anyone else bored of this conversation?” and then links to Lit Drift’s 5 Reasons Why the Novel is Not a Dying Medium, where they channel Mark Twain in saying that the death of the novel is greatly exaggerated.

On his blog, literary agent Nathan Bransford says, “Things are changing, it’s going to be an interesting/challenging couple of years as we gradually succumb to our coming e-book overlords, but it doesn’t mean the novel is going to disappear or that we’re all going to hell in a handbasket. Things aren’t going to be worse (at least in the long term), they’re just going to be different…”

I can do different. My feeling is that the more ways you can read, the more you will read, which is only good news for me. I do not mean to make light of the real changes facing everyone at every level of the publishing industry. Change is always scary.

But change doesn’t have to be bad, and in this case, I don’t believe it is.
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Dana Stabenow was born in Anchorage and raised on 75-foot fish tender in the Gulf of Alaska. She knew there was a warmer, drier job out there somewhere and found it in writing books. Her first science fiction novel, Second Star, sank without a trace, her first crime fiction novel, A Cold Day for Murder, won an Edgar award, her first thriller, Blindfold Game, hit the New York Times bestseller list, and her twenty-seventh novel and eighteenth Kate Shugak novel, Though Not Dead, comes out in February 2011.  Visit her web site:  http://www.stabenow.com/

7 comments:

Marcia Talley said...

Dana, this is exactly what we've learned on the recent SinC Summit trip to Amazon in Seattle and to Google, Apple and Smashwords in Silicon Valley. (The team report should be out in a couple of weeks.) We're not presiding over the death of the book, we're seeing new ways of getting our work into the hands of readers. Authors are important to these high-tech companies. We are their content providers. Without us, they'd have nothing to distribute!

Sandra Parshall said...

I think e-books are a wonderful development that will lead to more book sales, not fewer. I love the look and feel of printed books, but there's room on the market for more than one form. (I'm an audiobook addict, and the downloads I pay for or "check out" of the library are just as much books to me as the printed versions.)

Let's try embracing change instead of fighting it and forecasting doom. When I look at my tiny (and much loved) Zen device, which can hold dozens of full-length audiobooks and lots of music AND serves as a radio, all without taking up more than a bit of pocket space, I have no desire to return to the technology of the 1950s, when I was a child. Change is good. Bring it on, I say.

Marcia Talley said...

Exactly, Sandy. And recent sales statistics are confirming this trend. The first thing I'm going to do after I get the Summit Report off to the printer is push to get my backlist titles up in e-book format, and perhaps tackle an e-book edition of my collected short stories.

Sandra Parshall said...

Go for it, Marcia. I'm very pleased that Rob Rosenwald at Poisoned Pen Press has moved so quickly to get PPP's backlist into five different e-book formats. In the long run this will be a boon to small press writers because our books (rarely available in big chain stores) will now be easy for everyone to find and won't go out of print.

Dana Stabenow said...

When it comes right down to it, do we think that portion of the population who read are going to stop reading? I don't. One of the things that interested me most from this year's SinC summit videos was the woman who said suppose she found a book later on in a series that she really liked? The previous five of which are out of print? If they're in e-format, she downloads them that day. The convenience factor in e-bookery is tremendous.

John Wolf said...

I embrace technology. It paid the bills in my 30 year career in the workforce, so I don’t have a negative bias toward ebooks. In fact, I placed my five novels on Kindle the first week it was available. Where the rub came in was dealing with early attempts of folks like Amazon to painlessly upload the book-copy. Their guidelines were directed at mainstream programmers rather than authors. But, to my surprise the ebooks started selling and have ever since, not in major numbers, but more than I can sell on my own of the paper version. The latest version of Kindle’s upload software is very easy to use and the book-copy goes in nicely. I recently lowered the price to see if the volume would increase. It’s all good. You, the author, can manipulate all the factors that provide your work to the public including discount coupons, pricing, and version corrections. I don’t know anyone that’s written a book that hasn’t been embarrassed by typos. Ebooks allow you to edit those errors out and republish a new version in minutes. No publisher will do that without a major brouhaha. No library will accept a revision of a novel. It just isn’t done - not until now. Lately, you can even increase your royalty amount from 35% to 70% of the sale price! When has that ever happened in your writing career or even received 35% in the first place from the middleman? The way I look at it, one should publish a paper version in the off chance the book will gain recognition on a grand scale. There will be those that will want to own a paper version. Reserve that privilege for those that will purchase an autographed copy directly from you. The scarcity and the mystic of the author’s signature just add to the allure. The fact that ebooks allow you to be read by every educated person on the planet, even at $5 a pop or less, is much more relevant than a book signing where five people show up. I say hurray for ebooks. They can only make authors more accessible and open many new ways to reach readers. After all that’s the point, reach readers, not by what medium.

John Wolf said...

I embrace technology. I placed my five novels on Kindle the first week it was available. The latest version of Kindle’s upload software is very easy to use and the book-copy goes in nicely. I recently lowered the price to see if the volume would increase. It’s all good. You, the author, can manipulate all the factors that provide your work to the public including discount coupons, pricing, and version corrections. I don’t know anyone that’s written a book that hasn’t been embarrassed by typos. Ebooks allow you to edit those errors out and republish a new version in minutes. No publisher will do that without a major brouhaha. No library will accept a revision of a novel. It just isn’t done - not until now. Lately, you can even increase your royalty amount from 35% to 70% of the sale price! When has that ever happened in your writing career or even received 35% in the first place from the middleman? The way I look at it, one should publish a paper version in the off chance the book will gain recognition on a grand scale. There will be those that will want to own a paper version. Reserve that privilege for those that will purchase an autographed copy directly from you. The scarcity and the mystic of the author’s signature just add to the allure. The fact that ebooks allow you to be read by every educated person on the planet, even at $5 a pop or less, is much more relevant than a book signing where five people show up. I say hurray for ebooks. They can only make authors more accessible and open many new ways to reach readers. After all that’s the point, reach readers, not by what medium.