I read an informative post by US literary agent Nathan Bransford this morning, on the rise of ebooks and how this could affect the publishing industry.
It’s a topic I have been following for a while now, as I feel ebooks, and the role of technology are really starting to make their presence felt. I believe we are at the beginning of a transformation of how readers will access books in future. According to Wikipedia, there are already 2 million free ebooks available on the web.
Call me a romantic… I am a seventies child and still can’t quite grasp the idea of reading books from a handheld device that isn’t paper. I have even gone retro and collected vinyl LP records for the last few years. But I recognise that ebooks are the future, and I find that pretty exciting.
Sure, there are issues for readers, authors and publishers. Compatibility, pricing, digital rights, and so on. Acceptability is a huge issue too, for Luddites like me. We haven’t yet reached that critical-mass moment. The blinding pace of technology change can also hinder acceptance, some people may be loath to spend £200 when the market is shifting so fast and they could end up with an obselete product. But as a Guardian article on Google ebooks earlier this month highlighted, there are serious moves toward providing formats which can be read on a variety of readers. It’s just a matter of time before this market matures and becomes huge.
The most exciting thing of all, is that ebooks are one of a number of emerging ways by which some new authors may choose to reach their market directly rather than through publishers. The costs of creating and distributing an ebook, as you can imagine, are fractional compared to a printed novel. I am not saying that ease of publishing is always a good thing. A lack of quality control from the author could mean a reader pays for a book which is badly written and badly edited. But with customer ratings to help readers spot and avoid poor work, the overall effect is that it could give a greater power of choice to readers.
Will this greater choice and availability create more readers who read more books? I suspect not. Reading a book is an investment in time, it’s not quite the same as listening to a 3 minute music download. But for book lovers like me, the power of (near) limitless possibility at your fingertips could feel quite addictive. Like having your own handy sized personal bookshop which you can browse any time you like.
Hmm, maybe I will buy an ebook reader after all…
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