1987, Compact Disks, and Ebooks, Oh My!

By Dawn Frederick

In 1987, my neighbor, a retired scientist, mentioned a thing called a “compact disk.”  That he had a feeling it would replace records (a.k.a. LPs).  I had no idea what he was talking about, as this seemed to be a foreign concept and fuzzy at best.

Fast-forward to today’s publishing climate.  Over the last few years, ebooks have become a regular discussion.  There is a contingent who believes that our publishing climate could easily transition to a primarily digital world, while others believe the opposite.

The reality: our discussion is about accessibility & format vs. the death of the book.  This happened with music, it happened with movies, and the publishing industry is finding its own place in this digitized world.

As an agent, I can confirm there are many writers with talent who still have yet to get published.  Unfortunately agents and editors can only do so much, as time is invaluable – and there’s not enough time or people power to take every book that comes our direction(s).

For writers, the ebook revolution adds a new set of options when publishing a book.  For those who are traditionally published, the ebook is an additional format for the book that will hopefully reach more readers.  For the author who opts to self-publish, this is a very accessible choice – and there are many companies to choose from, no less.

The important thing to remember is that with either choice, a fair amount of time will need to be invested.  From the front end, in preparing a high-quality ebook that readers will clamor to purchase; to the book’s release, where a detailed, long-term marketing plan needs to executed.  Remember, there are no shortcuts if desirous of an overall successful publishing experience.

I personally would love to see books bundled; I would hope it happens, and soon.  There are many instances where I purchase multiple versions of a book, and it seems logical that any reader should be able to purchase the electronic and print editions simultaneously, especially at local bookstores.  But that’s just me, and maybe with time we’ll see something available at local bookstores that will make bundling possible.

Today’s newest readers want options. And if the publishing industry hopes to keep these readers around for the long-term, it’s a good idea the industry evolves accordingly – and much quicker than the current pace.

What are your thoughts?  Do you believe there are more choices?  Has one worked better for you than another?  How do you feel about bundling books?

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  1. J.R. on May 27, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Agreed. Music publishers are also having to deal with this, but it many ways, it’s a bit more forgiving. For sheet music, our clients, usually school teachers, were already having to make copies for their students to use. Digital versions make their lives easier.

  2. Howard N. Carter on June 5, 2013 at 7:04 am

    4. The re-emergence of the book as precious object. Some publishers are marketing luxury books; limited editions available only from them. Similarly, it’s becoming relatively common for people to self-publish their holiday photographs in book form; to produce a unique photograph/memory book for special birthdays or to mark a retirement. If these are being presented to those who are not big readers, or regular frequenters of bookshops, the social significance of self-publishing may be particularly strong.

  3. Carson J. Maldonado on June 14, 2013 at 8:24 am

    In the long term, what publishers have to fear the most may not be Amazon but an idea it has helped engender—that the only truly necessary players in the game are the author and the reader. “I was at a meeting God knows how many years ago at MIT,” former Random House chief Epstein says, “and someone used the word disintermediation. When I deconstructed that, I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s the end of the publishing business.’ ” At a time when a writer can post a novel online and watch the revenue pour in by direct deposit, the publishing industry’s skill at making books, selling them by hand to bookstores, and managing the distribution of the product threatens to become irrelevant. In Epstein’s vision, the writer may need a freelance editor, a publicist, and an agent who functions as a kind of business manager, but authors will keep a bigger share of the proceeds with no lumbering media corporation standing in the way.

  4. Pearl Blackwell on June 25, 2013 at 12:57 am

    I’ll be blunt. Ebooks and EPUB are to the publishing industry what Blu-Ray is to the movie industry: a solution to yesterday’s problem made irrelevant by broader change in the industry . Both have a couple of years left in them, and there’s good money to be made while the kinks get worked out from the alternatives, but the way the wind is blowing is clear.