My name is Murv, and I’m a book whore. My last book purchase was…
Okay, kidding aside… Well, sorta… You know me.
Some of you may be aware that all of the RGI books are now available in e-book versions. Not just Kindle, mind you, but the ubiquitous “e-pub” format that is readable on the Sony, Nook, Kobo, and many others. The e-pub versions just hit recently and are available via Smashwords.com – and, they will soon be showing up on many of the popular e-book portals out there, such as Sony’s E-book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store, and so on.
Well, as usual, I proceeded to tout this on my Facebook page as soon as my publicist, the Amazing Wendy, told me about it. In the midst of all that touting, one of my good buddies, Virginia Witt MD – or “Doc” as I prefer to call her, posed a question to me:
Murv, as an author, how do you feel about e-books? I’m really torn. I love the feel of the book in my hand, and have a reverence for books that goes back years. I can’t dog-ear them, I can’t write in them. It’s like I have the Goddess Libraria as my patroness.
But… my home library has gotten way out of control. The last time I moved (8 years ago) I had 87 boxes of books. Boxes. O. Books. I have multiple bookcases in every room except the bathrooms. And the environment would be helped by fewer trees being killed to make them. But authors are paid less per book sold, yes? So… what’s your take?
Like you, Doc, and many others as well, I am all about the physical book in my hands. But, I think that’s a function of age. We grew up in an era of books on paper and while some of us old farts have made the transition, many of us – like you and I – have not.
E-books are part of a new avenue in the book industry, just like POD. If you don’t know what that is, POD stands for “Print on Demand.” This basically means that the book is printed on a digital press as opposed to offset, web, sheetfed, etc. That way it can be printed very quickly in smaller batches – when demanded (ordered) and the need for warehousing, extra insurance, inventory taxes, etc are alleviated. Yeah, I may just write the books, but I’ve done a little research.
POD technology was once the purview of not so high quality books put out by not so high quality publishers. Not ALL of them, mind you, but enough of them that the tech got a bad name from it, and bookstores & libraries shunned POD books. Unfortunately, some of them still do today, even though Print on Demand has gone through its trials and tribulations, and has proven itself. In fact, now, almost every publisher on the block – from the big guy to the little guy – is using it for some or all of their titles. It saves money, time, trees, and still accomplishes the same goal. On top of that, there is now a machine – in the second or third generation by this point, I believe – called the Espresso Book Machine. You will find them in some bookstores and libraries. Just a few at the moment, but the number is growing. What this machine does is prints and binds a book for you right on the spot. Yes. What this means is, if the store doesn’t have the book in stock, if it is in the POD system as a digital file, you can have it produced for you right on the spot. Takes all of about 15 minutes. No more waiting for that call from the bookstore – which is sometimes forgotten – to let you know your special order finally showed up. Nope. If the store has an Espresso and the book is available via POD, you order it, go grab a cuppa, and then walk out the door with your freshly printed, still warm hunk o’ literature, and it doesn’t look any different than any other trade paperback on the shelves.
Cool, eh? I sorta think so…
And now, we have e-books…
In reality, e-books have been around almost as long as POD. And again, unfortunately, the tech was the purview of many a fly-by-night publisher that didn’t bother to edit what they were pushing. Still, it was an inexpensive way to get books out into the hands of the people.
And, I’ve always said, everyone has the right to be published. They don’t necessarily have the right to be “read,” however… But you have to have the first part before you can even take a crack at the second part.
What I mean by that is this – With the proliferation of the Kindle, then the iPad, now the Sony e-reader (which had been around long before), Nook, Kobo, and others, digital readers are flourishing and coming into their own. More and more people are moving toward e-book versions.
So, my feelings?
- It provides another avenue to get books – mine included – out to a new and ever expanding audience. That means more folks reading (which is good) and a few more jangling coins in my pocket (hopefully) which is good for my daughter’s college fund.
- On the note of getting paid less – well, that’s a yes and no sorta thing. First off, authors don’t get paid anywhere near what people think we get paid, unless, of course, we happen to have a name like Grisham, King, Patterson, “Castle”… I even have an amusing / sad anecdote about that – The o-spring had a school project where she had to write a paper about someone “famous.” It warmed my heart to discover that she chose yours truly as the subject of her research. Unfortunately, a quarter of the way into it I was replaced by someone else because one of her classmates told her I couldn’t possibly be famous because we lived in a modest, suburban house and weren’t “rich.” True story.
- But, on to that money thing… Truth is, the royalty percentage on an e-book is generally higher than on a print book – depending upon your publisher and the contract you have with them. Some authors get ALL of the proceeds as they retained their electronic rights and do it themselves. Of course, the selling price of the e-book is usually lower than that of the print version. So, it all comes out in the wash, really.
- On the note of boxes and boxes of books… I’m right there with you. And, when I am writing while on the road I will often carry a backpack filled with research materials. Ever try to do an OJ through O’Hare when you have 23 minutes between connections and you’re carrying 40 lbs of books and laptop computer on your back? Not fun… So, I’m definitely considering an e-reader of sorts – possibly even an iPad or some other ultra-compact tablet computer – to lighten my load just a bit.
I guess it’s sort of like the car never replacing the horse & buggy… We saw how that worked out. This is not to say that print books will disappear entirely. After all, there are still horses and buggies around. But, I do think they will eventually become a piece of nostalgia, possibly within our lifetimes. Some school / college libraries have already begun replacing hundreds of books from their shelves with electronic versions.
It’s flying, Orville. We’d best grab a seat before they are all taken…
Hope that answered your query Doc. Now I shall go have some more coffee and ponder what sort of e-reader I want to con E K into letting me buy.
More to come…