Monday, December 6, 2010

eBooks: You can't live with them...

I've been having a debate with folks online about the publishing industry and its current state.  I will try to recap it and provide my perspective.

The general sense is the future is here.  Paper books are passe and eBooks are the way to go.  I think this is not quite true.  It seems to me that the future of eBooks seems bright.  eBook sales are up and since there is a lot less risk with publishing an eBook, the number of new eBook titles is rising fast while the number of new paper titles is flat.

However, not everyone has an eBook reader.  Not yet.  Someday soon this probably will not be true.  Cell phone, MP3 player, and eBook reader will be standard equipment for everyone. But that hasn't happened yet.

Also note there's an entire generation of readers (people) who want to read books by holding them in their hands.  So I think the main difference here in my position and that of the people I was chatting with is one of timing.  Some believe the brave new world of books is here now and I'm saying that the wave has started crashing down but we have to wait another year or two to see what the landscape looks like once the water finishes washing up on the beach.

This is why in my last posting in this blog, I suggested we will need to produce both paper and electronic versions of our work, at least for the next year or two and then re-evaluate.

Not that I think eBooks will disappear.  They won't.  There is too much money to be made on them.  And frankly, book publishing is now undergoing the transformation the music industry went through in the '90s with MP3 and digital formats. The main difference here is that no one eBook format has caught on.  There is no one standard.  So it remains to be seen how eBook technology will play itself out.

Also of interest is the issue of security.  I suspect a lot of writers (particular fledgling ones like myself) would feel better if there was a security standard that prevented theft.  One in which purchases are tracked so that if multiple copies of the some tracking information start to appear the book does not open.  Or if the tracking information is modified, it does not matter because it does not match the data in the central database.

So love them or hate them, eBooks are here to stay.  I'm just wondering what they will look like in 10 years and what new features they might offer.

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