First published on Indies Unlimited 22nd July 2012
Photo by Zoë Lake
Personally, I will always love the sensual experience: the smell and touch reading a printed book. I suppose that no matter how convenient or inexpensive eReading is when compared to the real thing, so to speak…given the choice, especially if I didn’t have to shell out the thirty or forty dollars, as opposed to three or four dollars, I might still reach for the paper book. However, young readers are reaching for eReaders by choice, and a lot of the oldies, like me – being gifted eReaders by younger family members – are converted by the convenience and the price. The trend is changing, and quite rapidly.
I have to admit that before I began my research into ePublishing a little over a year ago, I truly believed that the decline in hard copy books and bricks and mortar book shops was the death knell to the art of reading, particularly with the onslaught of text speak – a personal hate of mine. I envisaged a future where people didn’t read, couldn’t read, or write, or even speak properly, where they communicated in a kind of ‘pidgin text speak’. I discovered, however, the complete opposite and in fact the number of leisure readers is increasing, and mostly the increase is due to the eRevolution.
It seems ePublishing, the eReader, and the eBook are reclaiming some of those lost leisure readers. Now they can surf the ‘net, check out the blogger reviews, suggestions and choices, download the free samples and then purchase a book of their choice for the cost of a coffee at the corner cafe: all from their lounge chair.
There are many positive aspects of the eReading evolution: books that have been out of print for years, quite unobtainable, are now available online, for free. My wife has just found an author and a book that her aunt used to talk about reading when my wife was a small child; she could never get hold of a copy – it was out of print. Now she has found it online, at no cost. So, the younger generation can get a taste for reading by downloading old classics, for free, and then go on to download excellent, current titles for the cost of a cup of coffee. This is all good for the reading public and for the authors.
So who is not benefiting by the eRevolution? Publishers, agents, brick and mortar booksellers perhaps? Hmmm… I certainly believe, like all of us, their part in the literary industry is being redefined. I also believe that, unlike the authors and the readers, their part may be shrinking in the process and will continue to shrink for some time to come. There will always be, I believe, a place for the ink on paper, hard copy book, but I think it will eventually be a niche market. We’ve already seen the disappearance of some of the large chain-store bookshops. The big publishing houses will morph, or go the way of the dinosaurs. The literary agents have been the strict gatekeepers of the publishing industry for many years, coming more and more into prominence during the 20th century; they came to regard themselves as an essential part of the literary process. Personally, I believe the literary agents will have to do a considerable amount of morphing during this eRevolution if they want to survive.
The infrastructure for ePublishing and the literary industry may be temporarily clogged but, the serious independent author/ePublisher knows cream eventually rises to the top. We simply have to weather the current climate, stick together, support one and other and we will prevail.
Embrace the eFuture; for writers, it has never looked so good.