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 Amazon.com 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. Amazon.com helped to realize this, and there is no changing it, as Amazon.com 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&N.com 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 Amazon.com 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.