There is indeed a backlash against the eBook format, as evidenced by declining if not downright plummeting revenues in favor of more traditional formats, but as this article astutely points out, it’s hardly time to throw in the virtual towel and return exclusively to print, either as a writer or a reader.
Just as digital cinema has all but replaced 35mm film in most theaters, which reduces costs in both shipping and storage, not to mention manpower (projectionists have sadly been outmoded outside of museums and defiant indie rep houses), eBooks have redefined how books are read, and even how they’re written.
Print books and brick-and-mortar bookstores have not yet been declared victims of “progress” by our culture, and in fact they have proven stubbornly resilient to the tsunami of sea changes in the marketplace over the past decade or so.
More Is Never Too Much
But even as both formats continue to compete for readers, the sheer amount of books now available for online perusal and purchase is overwhelming, as is the variety. The DIY digital revolution has spawned a bold new generation of authors who are willing to experiment and take risks, simply because their investment is so low.
Anyone can upload a book and have it available for a global audience within minutes. This means their output as well as their imagination is unlimited. This audacity and tenacity had no outlet in the pre-digital world, since authors had to go through the grueling and often unrewarding process of submitting their work to publishers, and even if they made it out of the slush pile and onto the printing press, the length of time between acceptance and publication was typically many months, and sometimes several years.
Of course, this unprecedented and unlimited accessibility has opened the floodgates for every aspiring writer of all ages in every part of the world, but this glut can be considered both a bonanza of riches as well as a challenge to people on all sides of the publishing process.
This “instant gratification” aspect of the digital era has its drawbacks, since quantity does not necessarily promise quality, and indeed, the eBook marketplace is as loaded with clueless dilettantes and amateurs with an axe to grind and as it is populated with sincere, hard-working, honest professionals completely dedicated to their craft.
On the upside, the risk for readers is also at an all-time low, since now they can not only sample a book before buying it, but since eBooks are so cheap, especially those by unknown and self-published authors, they aren’t forced to purchase then haul around a print book by someone whose work they do not know and quite possibly don’t even like.
Again, without digital technology, none of this would be possible. And because these benefits have already been widely accepted and appreciated, eBooks are never going to be repealed and replaced.
At least not until something even easier and cheaper comes along. And that’s where entrepreneurship comes in: in this rapidly expanding field, there is room for innovation as well as incentivizing.
The digital revolution isn’t over, because technology never stops changing and growing. But its advances are as irreversible as they are irrefutable. Now its time for the next phase of its development, and all ideas are welcome.
How has digital publishing affected your aspirations as a writer?