There are days when I swear that I was born in the wrong century. Don’t get me wrong, I’d totally miss the music of the 1980s, a little of the 90s and then the resurgence of the 80s sound in the 2000s. But why is it people need to mess with my love of books? CNN just published a story yesterday suggesting that traditional copies of books could be phased out much sooner than people have been anticipating. We’re talking possibly in 5 years.
I grew up a voracious reader thanx largely in part to my mother. For whatever reason, it also inspired me to write, mostly because I saw firsthand how words can move the soul, take you on journeys to places we’ll never visit and stretch the imagination to the limits and beyond. And to be able to physically touch the cover of a book, flip through pages and breathe in that new-book or old-book smell? Ah, that’s magic! Maybe a little weird sounding, but magic.
And now we have e-books. As a writer, I’m asked more and more often if I own a Kindle or other e-reader. No, I don’t, and after reading how Amazon didn’t happen to mention they could yank books from your Kindle without you knowing about it, without telling you and without you even knowing they could do that, I have no intention of getting one either. Why? It raises the question of what else they or anybody else isn’t telling us.
I’m actually surprised Disney hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon of selling e-book merchandise through the Kindle, especially when they wouldn’t think twice about having their titles pulled when they officially went “out of print.” Does that ring a bell? I’ve got one word for you if it doesn’t; DIVX. Disney loved the idea of DIVX discs developed and sold at Circuit City all those years back because their discs could only be played in the player of the owner whose account paid for it. And when Disney pulled a title off the shelves, the DIVX player would then block the disc from being played regardless of whether you paid for lifelong use or not.
It died an excruciating death, something I giggled myself to sleep thinking about for many a night afterward.
So, what’s the attraction to an author for having their books sold in e-book form? For one, the percentage of royalties is greater. On the other hand, the cost of the book itself is lower. Well, in some cases. More on that in a little bit. Second, e-books are much easier to sell in overseas markets since there’s no real overhead, which opens up a potential market for folks. Finally, authors may not need traditional publishers anymore to get their work out there (Amazon has a program on their site that authors can use to publish their work), meaning more money for them for each book sold. Instead of $.50 a copy in royalties, it could mean a couple of dollars, plus a quicker payout instead of once or twice a year.
Are there any cons? Sadly, yes. Walk into any bookstore or go onto any website that sells books and chances are you’ll be able to order the same book from any of them with few exceptions. Not so for the future. There is a disturbing trend now where certain books by certain authors are being purchased by specific stores and released in e-book form ONLY by those specific stores. It reminds me a bit of Wal-Mart has done with being the only store to purchase new albums by Journey, Kiss and AC/DC. In the case of books, Author David Morrell has made 10 of his books available only through Amazon’s Kindle and the Wylie Agency is making 20 classic books titles available exclusively through Amazon in the e-book format. This is just the beginning and, seriously, who wants to go to three different sites to pay for three different books? How is that not a nuisance?
Then, of course, there’s the price. E-books are considerably cheaper, right? Not so, not if some of the publishing houses have their way. Are they cheaper than hard copies? Yes. But, really, who wants to pay $12.99-$14.99 for a digital copy of a book that the publishing house didn’t have to print, didn’t have to store, didn’t have to transport and has considerably little overhead for? It seems that the publishers may have to rethink the way they do things, like offering advances, which puts a book in the hole before it’s ever even released.
And yes, each side has their arguments over why they’re doing what they do, but let’s face it. It always comes down to money, very little of which is ever actually seen by the author.
Would I welcome the opportunity to sell my work on my site? Sure. As long as they were still available everywhere else, too.
Ah, technology… But no, thank you. I won’t be buying an e-reader anytime soon.