Today I feel the urge to discuss, or at least toss out my views on, the Imminent Death Of Print Publishing.
I remember, a thousand years ago when computers first crept onto the scene. The VIC20, with 20K of memory. Really. 20K. No one knew how to use that much memory!
Move on upwards and forwards, through the Commodore 64 and the PC and the Mac and now I’m sitting here working on an “old” laptop that has more memory in it than the mainframes I used in highschool to program Basic onto punchcards. Yes, I’m *that* old.
And back then we had the prophets going forth, the ones announcing that paper was dead and that we’d be saving the Amazonian rain forests because we were weeks, maybe months away from having Star Trek-type of pads that would do everything for us and we’d never use paper again.
*looks around house*
Nope. Paper still here. Lots of it. Plenty of books, too.
In fact I’m not really sure that a single tree has been saved in the long run because everyone likes to have their records on paper, somewhere, somehow. The receipt from the bookstore. The check for that stereo system. That textbook that isn’t out in ebook form and that you’ve marked up with highlighters to the point that an unmarked page is a rarity.
Which is not to say that the ebook isn’t springing into the forefront of the literary world. Indeed, sales increase every time you turn around and people are picking up ebook readers or downloading programs onto their iPhones or laptops or whatever to read from.
But is it the End of Print Publishing, as some self-proclaimed prophets would have you believe?
I don’t know. I don’t think so. And unlike these people who would have you believe that we’re one short hop, skip and jump away from demolishing the NYC publishing industry, I can’t make a prediction.
And neither can they.
Now, I can make a guess, based on the fact that I *did* work for Penguin Books Canada back in the day and now am on the other side of the fence, having books published in ebook form AND in print form. But whatever I say it’ll still be a guess. I think that ebooks will continue to grow and take up a good hunk of the market but print will never go out of style.
Because people like the touch of books. I know, that’s the usual mantra given. But let me point out other factors.
Many, MANY books will never go into ebook format for a variety of reasons, from the authors not wanting to give permission to the publishers to the cost of putting them up for sale as an ebook to there just not being that much demand. If I’m looking for an obscure nonfiction author I’ll have better luck finding a print copy than hoping it comes up on Amazon eventually as an ebook. And, again, a lot of authors aren’t racing to put their backlist up because of the threat of piracy along with concerns about royalties, etc.
So print books will still be around. But publishers?
Despite what some of the prophets want you to believe, not everyone in publishing is a drooling idiot who can’t understand what an ebook is or how to program their VCR or whatever passes for a dumb person these days. These men and women are trained professionals who spend years learning their art – be it editing, creating cover art for the books or sales. They didn’t just drop off the turnip truck and fall into their positions. And they like to make money. Lots of money. Which goes back to being professionals who want to sell their product.
They know what ebooks are. They’re not ignoring the trend or sticking their collective heads in the sand or whatever rumors are put out there, they’re having meetings and discussing options and doing what they do – figuring out how to sell lots of books. Both ebook and print. And just because they’re not calling up Joe Author and telling them what their plans are doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Remember, these people are in the business of making money.
Rumor: “All the brick and mortar stores are closing!”
My thought: No, they’re not. The economy sucks for them, but it’s a DEPRESSION, folks. Books are still a luxury for many and I’d be surprised if library use hasn’t gone up as people cut back. And it’s an illogical jump to go from “they’re not buying print books!” to “they’re buying ebooks instead!” Think it over.
Rumor: “Screw the trad publishers! Go indie and get rich!”
My thought: I’d rather be writing. I don’t want to negotiate distribution with different warehouses, design cover art, write blurbs, edit and handsell my book. I’d rather be writing and leave it to those professionals who know how and what they’re doing. I think it’s worth “paying” my publisher with a cut of my royalties for excellent cover art, a sales force that will sell more books through their connections than I can EVER do by begging on the Amazon boards or spamming people on Facebook and get reviews from people who I’m not begging to trade reviews with.
And for all the money these prophets are making – how much of that goes right back into their sales effort? And how successful do you think the majority of them are, selling a full-length novel at $0.99? In the middle of thousands of other “indie” authors who are putting up their unedited tomes on Amazon and hoping to strike it rich?
It’s like the California Gold Rush – many will try, few will succeed. And many will follow the rantings of some who just don’t like the idea of having to answer to anyone for their writing – an editor, a cover artist who may know what appeals to the public, a salesperson who may have more connections than you do.
Do I think that ebooks are the future? Sure – to a degree. But I’d still want to have my books come out in print, from a recognized publisher with good cover art, decent distribution and a good reputation in the field. But that’s me, an old broad who just wants to write and not spend hours doing stuff that I know I’m not good at and won’t get good at because I don’t have years of training to do it.
The death of print? Don’t believe it. Don’t believe the self-proclaimed prophets leading scads of anxious, desperate authors to their doom by encouraging them to ignore publishers and toss their work up on Amazon. If you go that route do your homework and decide on your own.
But, hey… what do I know?
Which makes me as qualified as the next person to rant, eh?