Posts Tagged ‘ebooks’

It’s not bad enough that the stock market is collapsing, the banks are going under, and unemployment is skyrocketing. Now we have this.  The print publishing industry is about to go belly up.  It seems that almost all the major newspapers have created online editions that are available free to anyone who wants to sign up.  Those newspapers that still publish hard copies are trying to figure out how to stay in business at a time when sales are down, and advertising revenues are down, while the internet versions of the papers are not only free to readers, but they are also undated hourly so they provide much more up to the minute coverage of the news than any print edition possibly could.

Now, the same sort of thing is happening to the book industry.  With the successful launch of Amazon’s Kindle people can download a bestseller for a fraction of the price of a hard copy.  Yet, at the same time, Amazon can make money on these low priced editions.  That is because the cost to publish is negligible compared to printing hard copies of books, distributing them, and so forth, only to find out that the publisher guessed wrong about the demand for the book and they printed way too many copies that will never be sold.  It is clear that online publishing and distribution is far more cost effective than hard copy book publishing. However, there are other advantages that will also ensure that the print media will soon disappear.

Take Amazon’s Kindle for example.  There are other electronic book readers, but this seems to be the most popular at the moment.  It can store over 200 books in a small handheld device that is as easy to read and as easy on the eyes as a paper book.  Imagine if students could have all their textbooks stored in their Kindle.  No more lugging around a backpack with 40 pounds of books. Also, if you haven’t bought a textbook recently, you might be startled to see how expensive they are, some cost well over $100 each. However, without the need to print copies and guess how many might be sold, it would be expected that electronic textbooks will provide a great cost savings to students (and their parents).

There  is also another characteristic of electronic books that will completely revolutionize the publishing industry.  Suppose you want to be a novelist.  OK, well you have to write your entire novel first.  Then you have to get a literary agent interested, based upon sending them a couple of sample chapters.  If they don’t resonate with your book, then their answer is “no”.  If you are one of the very, very few who actually gets an agent, then your agent has to find a publisher who also likes the book. This is not a sure thing.  Remember the book business is a business. They don’t publish good books, they publish books that they think will sell a lot of copies.  After all, that’s how they make money. So today, someone like Sarah Palin can get a $10 million book deal without having written a single page, because she is famous and the publishers figure a lot of people will buy her book regardless of what she says in it.  On the other hand an unknown scientist could solve Einstein’s perplexing problem of the Grand Unified Field Theory and not get published at all because the publishing industry didn’t understand what he was talking about and besides not more than ten people will buy it anyway.

The new electronic book industry will be, in some ways, like the new world of blogs and You Tube and Facebook. There will be opportunities for many people to publish their books and get discovered and maybe even make money. The land of the electronic publishing is a land of opportunity for publishers and readers alike. It will offer low cost books to everyone and a thousand (a million?) times more titles and topics that we ever could have with the print industry.  I suppose we will need something like Digg to help people decide which books to consider, but overall, it will be a much more democratic system that will enable people to write about and read about even the most arcane topics in an inexpensive way. It will lead to an explosion of knowledge and the potential of entirely new types of books, for example, books that have embedded video. It will also lead to interactive books, massively collaborative books, and who knows what else.

Get ready. Change is coming; no it’s already here and growing fast right now at Amazon.  This is just the beginning for a new generation of reading devices that will cause printed books to soon go the way of papyrus scrolls.  It is an exciting time for anyone who is an author or a reader of books.  It will revolutionize how we communicate and how we learn.  The ebook will soon be seen as the greatest thing since Gutenberg invented the printing press.

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