The revered print publishers which have kept the book industry alive for the last couple of hundred years may be moving closer toward “the end” — or maybe not. Whatever the future holds, it’s looking good for ebooks and not so good for hardcovers/paperbacks.
As an avid follower of Joe Konrath’s blog, “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing,” I have been reading and learning a lot in recent weeks about the revolution taking place within the publishing industry. In a very interesting recent post, Konrath reported on what might indicate a major step toward the “end” of print publishing as we’ve known it for those hundred or so years. In that blog post, Konrath, an accomplished and successful thriller/horror/suspense novelist in his own right, reports on a major publishing deal given to best-selling ebook author John Locke by Simon & Schuster — one of the NYC “Big Six” publishing companies. (I’m just learning that much tossed-about phrase “Big Six” for the remaining NYC major publishing companies. Not yet sure what those six publishers are.)
I urge you, as writers, to read more about John Locke and his publishing deal for yourselves. As Konrath points out in his blog post, he and Locke share the same agent, a very savvy woman who understands the value of “erights,” i.e., Konrath’s term for ebook and related “non-paper” publishing rights. As Konrath points out in numerous blog posts, comments, and some of his better “how-to” writing ebooks available on Kindle — print profits and royalties may die out (very rapidly in many cases) but ebook profits go on forever.
Given the “eternal” nature of ebook sales and earnings for a writer (well, maybe not really eternal, but a LOOOONNNNNGGGG time anyway), it makes great sense for anyone seeking to write, fiction OR nonfiction, to look closely into writing and publishing their works as ebooks. (I’m becoming obsessed about this, I know, but Amazon lets you create and publish at no cost to you via Kindle.)
Does Simon & Schuster’s startling deal to relinquish Locke’s erights mean the beginning of the end for print publishing? OK, probably not. If you ask around, I’ll bet most of your friends who read books still prefer having a hardcover or paperback they can hold in their hands and thumb through the pages. If you’re an avid reader as I am (and writers ARE all avid readers, aren’t they?), you just love the look, feel, and even the “smell” of a good book, i.e., a “hold-it-in-your-hands-and-lay-it-on-a-table” book.
Having said that, I have to tell you I bought myself a Kindle just before Christmas last year, and I’m quickly getting so I like it. It has some features that beat “real” books, actually, and I absolutely love 1) the portability, and, 2) the prices of some really great Kindle ebooks in the free-to-99-cent range.
While I may not share Joe Konrath’s certainty that the Locke deal may be the beginning of the end for the Big Six, as a writer I certainly share his enthusiasm for ebooks/erights. And he may be right. Many years ago, I tried my hand as a door-to-door book and encyclopedia salesman. That’s made me keenly aware of what’s happened to direct book/encyclopedia selling: The genesis of CD/DVD encyclopedias, followed by online encyclopedia sets, and finally wikipedia has virtually destroyed hard-bound in-home encyclopedias.
Maybe today’s hardcovers and paperbacks are going to become specialty items only collectors can or will buy? Could be.