Monday, November 26, 2012

Evolution of the Book: From Ink to Digital Ink

It is strange to me that there is a still this stigma regarding the general acceptance of an e-book as anything other than what it is--a book. To some people, if it doesn't contain paper in-between two glossy covers, it can't possibly be considered a book. 

Those reluctant to switch over to a digital reading platform often cite their fondness of the tactile sensation of holding on to a paper book--as if that's a "reason" for dismissing digital e-books. Others cite that they want to support the "traditional" publishing industry. Support them doing what? Not publishing digital books?

Because, it seems to me, as the market place changes and upgrades, they're simply going to have to get with the times. I support a publishing industry that can adapt to the technology of the era. After all, the same happened with the invention of the publishing press which gave rise to mass market books in the first place. If the publishing industry is incapable of adapting the technology, then maybe it deserves to die out. So I don't actually get what people are supporting when they use that excuse, except to say, it's just an excuse not to have to buy an e-reader.

In fact, it seems the big publishers are slow to make the digital switch over too, although many have and will continue to do so. University presses are even more reluctant to make the switch-over it seems. But I don't see why. We're not dealing with a different medium here. It's just a different type of book.

There are paperback books. There are hardcover books. And now there are digital books.

It's as simple as that.

The fear that the publishing industry is going to disappear and vanish forever if you don't cut down trees and use up all the paper is an illogical one. The publishing industry will survive, just wait and see. But how will it survive? By publishing e-books.

The controversy isn't so much about the technology itself, but the way in which the technology changes the publishing landscape.

It is the ease at which one can publish a digital book, and set their own price, that makes it easy for Indy authors to get their work out there and take a huge chunk of the landscape away from the traditional publishers. E-books and digital self-publishing changes the business landscape--the dynamic in which the traditional publishers used to do business now has completely been overtaken by the rabidly growing e-book market.

It means the traditional publisher will have to take the Indy market seriously, thanks in part to the prominence of e-books (and the push by and their excellent Kindle e-reader which in turn elevated the self-publishing industry thereby allowing authors like me who want to bypass all the politics to do so and get on with what we love doing most--writing).

The digital self-publishing Indy market is now the traditional publishing houses main competition, whether they like it or not. helped to realize this, and there is no changing it, as has all the books.

Literally. They have them... all. And they offer them in digital format too. This has forced companies like Barnes & Noble to compete by creating their own e-reader called the Nook. A fine device in itself. And now B& offers a digital self-publishing service like Amazon's KDP, called PubIt!

Distributors, like Amazon and B&N, now control the type of books which get made instead of the publishers, but this makes more sense to me, since the distributors are often more in touch with who is buying books and what type. 

So what does this all mean? It means companies like did some major landscaping, and now the terrain is a little different, and some people feel out of their depth with the unfamiliarity of it all. But I found that just by buying a Kindle and familiarizing myself with it, that sense of unfamiliarity quickly turns into a sense of familiarity. The book isn't dying off--its simply evolving.

The sooner publishers realize this fact and the sooner they start respecting Indy writers, and it seems many are moving in that direction, and the sooner we can stop whining about the demise of the book.

The book is here to stay. It's just bound by megabytes and digital displays instead of paper and glue. Welcome to the future, now.


  1. I agree. The same transformation is happening in gaming. I buy virtually all my games via digital download services like Steam and Origin. When Steam was new, I heard lots of guys fuss about not having a physical copy of their game, with the box and manual. Now Steam has something like 40 million users.

    Ditto with movies and music. I can't remember the last time I bought a physical CD or DVD. I buy hi-def movies digitally via iTunes, and music comes the same way. Personally, I'd much rather not have all the clutter in my living room.

    Besides, most services now have cloud backups, so you can always re-download your purchases even if you didn't back them up like you should have.

    And just as with books, digital services have made it easier for indie game developers and amateur musicians to distribute their products.

  2. I remember when Steam first came out, I downloaded it when I purchased Halflife 2, and I put an account on my college roommate's computer too. He was a huge WoW nerd, constantly blowing off real life engagements with me to go to fake online weddings and what not. But he was furious that I had set him up with a Steam account. Although we shared a dorm computer, it was part his, and he viewed Steam as spamware just to sell games. I got a huge lecture for doing that. Talk about big trouble. lol.

  3. I prefer paper for the simple reason that it doesn't require electricity to read what i want. :)

    No problem with e-books, have a few, but I still prefer paper. Simple, requires no power, and no one can decide to delete things from my collection (ala Amazon). :)

    1. I like both as well.

      I tend to buy all my books on Kindle first. A couple of reasons. It's easier to transport my library to and fro work. My bag is a lot lighter without three or four books. Now I can carry 300 books and never be weighted down any.

      Also, Kindle books are usually tens of dollars less than their paperback counterparts. I can usually preview a book an see if I like it. Or buy the full thing and read through it, and if I don't like it, then it doesn't take up any unnecessary shelf space.

      Other reasons include, it makes research when reading non-fiction works much easier. It also makes me more selective about what physical copies I do buy. If I really love a book, I can always buy the hardcover later. I don't mind double dipping, as they say, when the book is worth it. But that said, owning in on Kindle first is a good way to make sure the book is worth it.

      Finally, I can have the largest access to Indy titles. Many of which do NOT have paperback counterparts. So I can read a zillion more Indy titles than if I were to stick to paper.

      That said, much of the Indy stuff is a gamble. You never know if it will be good or not, but again, thanks to Kindle's preview function, I can always check out a sample without having to waste any hard earned dollars.

      The Kindle, or other ebook devices, just seems more logical to me as a consumer and a bibliophile.

      In fact, all it has done is allow me to read more while giving me greater access to a larger library of literature. One which paper-die-hards are missing out on.

    2. Oh, I should mention the Kindle Paperwhite has a battery that lasts 4 months! Yeah, 4! It only takes about an hour to charge. And you can charge while you read, or while you sleep, so you never really notice it. The only time it sucks is when you simply forget to charge it an its at its limit. But if you're living in the 21st century, all you need to do is pull out your smart phone and finish reading on there until you can recharge your e-reader.

      A minor inconvenience, but so minor that it normally goes unnoticed.