When I first started out as a writer, there was no such thing as E-readers and E-books. I’m going to date myself horribly here, but there was no such thing as the internet, either. Well, it existed, and has, much longer than we realize, but it wasn’t in widespread use in homes and wouldn’t be until the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Likewise, though they existed, laptops were not a “thing.” I started out on a typewriter, then a word processor, then finally a computer.
When E-books first started increasing in popularity and availability, they were also met with a lot of horror and condemnation. Ray Bradbury famously insisted that E-books were not real books (so, sorry, if you’ve ever had a book published in E-format, Ray Bradbury says you’re not a real writer) and in his later years he had to be coerced by his publishers to allow his work to be offered in E-book format. Other people were utterly convinced E-books meant that paper books were going to go away forever. As we can see all these years later, print books are still around. Humorously, when the printing press was first invented people insisted the ability to reproduce and widely distribute text would destroy books. So take heed, writers. According to the old school, none of you are real writers unless you’ve published a hand-written, hand-bound book and personally sold it yourself on a street corner!
I watched E-books completely change the face of publishing, and I’m always in awe that I was part of that transition. When people start naysaying, I remind them that books survived the greatest and swiftest technological revolution the world has ever seen by adapting to it, and that means something about books, and reading in general.
I watched E-books completely change the face of publishing, and I’m always in awe that I was part of that transition.
Here’s how Ebooks have changed publishing, for the good and bad.
The pros of E-books:
- For avid readers, they’re a blessing. They make books much cheaper and more widely available.They also make obscure subject matter more mainstream and abundant–so if you like to read about something off the beaten path, you’re able to find many more titles available to you.
- They let you take reading anywhere. You can take a lot of books with you everywhere you go, and read them much more conveniently. Six paperback books in your suitcase take up a lot more room than six books on your E-reader.
- They make it less embarrassing to read certain subject matter. Like to read racy romances with a passionate, sexy couple on the cover? Don’t want to sit on the bus reading your book while everyone stares at it and silently judges you? E-readers to the rescue!
- They open up new royalty rates for authors. Go ahead and ask your editor for 60% royalties on every paperback sold. I hope you’re on the ground floor, because they’re going to throw you out the window.
The cons of E-books:
- Self publishing. Don’t get me wrong, self publishing is great. It’s also terrible. E-books, along with Amazon, have made it so anyone can self publish easily and anyone does. That not only means there’s a lot of terrible self published stuff out there, but it means that you’re trying to get noticed in a sea of literally hundreds of thousands of self published books. Maybe millions. It can be really, really discouraging.
- Technological glitches. Losing your entire E-library can suck, if something happens to your E-reader or you lose it. Thankfully there’s ways to back things up, but E-books are more ephemeral than print, in many ways.
- The print purists. See above. Suck it, Ray Bradbury.
I’m a big fan of E-books. I’m a big fan of print books. I’m a big fan of books. And I’m so happy that we’re still taking books along for the ride, no matter our evolving technology.