Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Well, the future is arriving right on time — maybe even faster than we book people planned on.

Amazon is now selling more e-books than they are paper books. So whether you like it or not, you have to realize that e-books are here to stay (until the next innovation takes place).

As usual, there has been the gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands buts that’s from those people, whether in the publishing industry or just book-lovers, who love paper books for what they are. The thing to realize is that, if you happen to be one of those people, you’ve now been relegated to the dodo end of the evolutionary spectrum.

Will paper books die out now? Of course not. Neither has the fountain pen, radio, LP records or CDs. I’ll bet there are even people out there with 8-track cassette machines and a wall covered with VHS or Beta cartridges.

Our beloved paper books are slowly slipping out of the mainstream as publishers embrace the new technology, technology I might add that allows them to save a ton of money. No more enormous printing bills, shipping bills, return bills, storage bills. Why wouldn’t they want to embrace e-books? They’d be nuts not to jump in with both feet now. The technology is proven and its growth rate is completely outstripping paper books. And that change in paradigm is only going to move faster.

So where does that leave us as authors? That’s the real rub, as has been pointed out by many, many pundits and people much wiser about these things than I.

I wish I had an answer. We’re the bottom of the publishing food chain. I know that seems ridiculous since we’re the creators of what is being sold, but it’s always been true. Nothing has changed because of e-books.

The thing that bugs a lot of us and leads us to excessive hand-wringing is that we have little control over what’s happening. Amazon seems set on what they’re going to pay and charge for books. Other sellers have other ideas. The publishers have what they think is fair. And the public? They want to pay the lowest price possible for their reading material — preferably free.

The real rub is that authors are a very fluid and loose group. There is no way that we would all gang together and start dictating what would be fair to us. That’s a shame. Without us, there are no new books. Without us, no publisher could survive for long.

So we’re all left to swing in the winds of change and make our own deals to survive as writers. There will be some winners, but there will be a lot more losers.

And that’s the real shame.

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