September 28th 2008
My Own ePublishing Rant
Electronic publishing is the future! Embrace e-publishing! Paper is dead! You publishers are idiots, ignoring this new market!
But . . .
The problem with epublishing, one that neither of these people has addressed, is quite simple–NO ONE WANTS TO READ THE STUFF.
Okay, “no one” is a slight exaggeration, obviously. Electronic erotic romance (say that three times fast) is thriving. Some authors of my acquaintance are poised to make a major move into e-publishing their own work because they’re pretty sure they have the e-readership. So someone out there is buying and reading. However, such readers make up only a teeny-tiny percentage of the market. Why should this be?
Here’s the answer: reading at a computer screen feels like work.
It’s not comfortable, it’s not cozy, it’s not relaxing. You can’t do it at the beach, in the waiting room, or in your favorite easy chair. Amazon is trying to wean people onto its Kindle e-reader, but until the vast majority of book readers buy an e-reader, publishers aren’t going to be willing to put full effort into e-publishing.
And there’s the solution. Once e-readers are in everyone’s hands, then the market for e-books will be worth a publisher’s serious time.
There’s an easy way to bring this about. Computer and phone companies have been doing it for decades. If you want to have a market for e-books, simply do this:
GIVE THE E-READERS AWAY FOR FREE.
Remember when cell phones were only for businesspeople and the wealthy? We regular folk couldn’t afford the cell phones. My, how things change. The phone companies are responsible, of course. When was the last time you paid full price for your cell phone? What’s that? “Never did,” you say? Exactly! The phone companies subsidize cell phones until we, the customers, get them for free or nearly free, creating a market. Now the demand for the newest cell phones is huge, and the phone companies have an endless supply of customers for their cell phone plans.
Remember back when computers only had drives for 3 1/2″ discs? No one wanted a computer with a CD drive. Everyone said, “Who needs that much memory?” So computer companies simply started including them in computers for free. They also gave out a couple of games that could only work with the expanded memory a CD offered. Everyone got a taste of what a CD drive could do, and abruptly demand for CD drives skyrocketed. Now such drives are standard on every computer, and the CD drive makers have an endless market for their product.
The publishers need to work with computer companies and distributors to get free or extremely inexpensive e-readers into EVERYONE’S hands, not just the hands of technophiles and businesspeople. Amazon needs to GIVE the Kindle away, perhaps in conjunction with a publisher, and with it set up a plan for a certain number of e-books available for download per month, just like a cell phone company gives you a certain number of minutes every 30 days.
A full-blown market for e-books doesn’t exist, and it won’t puff into existence on its own The publishers need to create it.
Steven Harper Piziks was born in Saginaw, Michigan, but he moved around a lot. Currently he lives with his wife and three sons near Ann Arbor, Michigan. His novels include In the Company of Mind and Corporate Mentality, both science fiction published by Baen Books. Writing as Steven Harper for Roc Books, he has produced The Silent Empire series. He's also written movie novelizations and books based on Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and The Ghost Whisperer. Steven currently teaches English in southeast Michigan. When not writing, he plays the folk harp, dabbles in oral storytelling, and spends more time on-line than is probably good for him. Visit his web page at http://www.sff.net/people/spiziks or find his LiveJournal at http:spiziks.livejournal.com/ Visit site.
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