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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

E-book Futures

I am not the most tech-savvy person you'll ever meet. Heck, I've barely evolved from troglodyte. But I try to stay abreast of the latest innovations.

I've discovered that despite throwing temper tantrums every time technology took a leap forward, I have never been able to stop progress. I've learned to embrace the horror.

You should have seen me when cell phones entered the realm of man. Greg had to force me to buy a cell phone. But I still resist texting. That just seems dumb. If I have a phone, why should I type?

The thing I've learned about technology is that if you don't keep up, it pulls away from you so fast that you are utterly lost when the next gen tool takes its place. So I keep pace even when I don't want to.

Those of you who know me, know that I have a knack for spotting trends and patterns. And I hate to say it because I don't want to encourage any more progress than necessary, but I think these e-readers might become a way of life in the future.

I've been on the fence for a long time on how this was going to pan out, but the Writers' Strike is what convinced me the ebook was here to stay.

A major sticking point in talks was negotiating the royalties for mediums that weren't an issue the last time contracts were bargained. The written word was being digitized at an alarming rate, and writers weren't being compensated for it. Sure, they got their checks when shows went on tv, but what about podcasts, website content, and YouTube?

The writers' strike touched the tip of the iceberg. Digitized formats of their work were no longer isolated cases. Now when you write for a tv show, a newspaper, a magazine---and even a book, you must reconcile yourself to the fact that the publisher of these works might very well want it in digital format too.

The reason the writers' union has been so steadfast for protecting these rights and demanding royalties for digital media is because they believe it is the natural evolution for mass communication. I agree. Given what technology has done so far for music, communication, and the information highway, it is the only logical step. I'm not prescient; I'm merely extrapolating what must happen with book publishing in order to compete with other forms of communication.

I have reason to believe all the major players know that as well. Giant publishers, like Harlequin have announced that their complete catalog will now be available in ebook format. Kensington has teamed up with Samhain to foster its e-connection. The Kindle, Amazon's e-reader is gearing up to offer thousands of titles for download.

They know what's coming. And they are gearing up for it.

My prediction, for what it's worth, is that traditional publishing will have to share a bed with what it once considered its poorer cousin, the ebook. How that will manifest in terms of royalties and advances has yet to be seen. But it should be a pretty interesting turn of events. And it's something that all of us as authors should consider as a critical next step.

The world is changing once again. Get ready for another explosion.


Ruv Draba said...

I'm a lover of e-books for research and reference (easy to search, multimedia), writing exercises (either interactive, or easy to fill in forms etc...), graphic fiction (easy to navigate). I welcome them for short fiction, and would be happy to see serial fiction on-line.

I'd be very happy to get anthologies in e-books if the anthologies had the same flexibility that the I-pod gives me in my music.

I think I'd prefer to see most of my periodical subscriptions on-line (again, searchability and portability are the attractors).

I don't gladly read novels on-line - except when the novels are out of paper print, and available inexpensively on-line. (And I'm quite shocked by how many are). But maybe the future of fiction is moving away from novels?


Maria Zannini said...

I think what will be changing for the novel are e-readers like the Kindle. It's an amazing little machine, though a little too pricey for me at the moment. The things I love best about the Kindle is that you can bookmark passages and pages. You call also click on any word and get its definition.

Now all I need is for it to read to me. I'd buy it in a heartbeat then.

Ruv Draba said...

I hadn't heard of it until you mentioned, but had heard of predecessors. A quick trip to C|Net for a review check and I found this preliminary review.

If I was travelling on planes/trains/buses, or writing in hotel rooms I think it'd be very attractive just now; the convenience would surely justify the size, price and charges for content. As I'm mainly a home reader/writer, I think I'll wait for the market to settle and the tech to mature just a bit more before before reviewing my reading habits.

Maria Zannini said...

I agree. When I used to travel more, I would have loved to have something like this along. I travel less now, thankfully.