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EBooks: Friend or Foe?

EBooks: Friend or Foe?

by: John Joseph Burhop

Publishing is a $35 billion industry. Up until just a few years ago, that meant almost exclusively books, magazines, newspapers, and other small items such as brochures and business cards. The internet has changed all that in more ways than one. Enter the eBook, or downloadable electronic book. Although early versions of the eBook have been around since the 1970’s, it wasn’t until late in 2007 that Amazon’s eBook Reader, the Kindle, was released, and not until 2009 that dedicated reading hardware was produced. According to the Association of American Publishers, eBook sales rose 176.6% to $169.5 million in 2009. Another report, this one conducted by Forrester Research, an independent research company that provides pragmatic and forward-thinking advice to global leaders in business and technology, predicts that eBook sales will cross the $1 billion line in 2011.

When I first realized that eBook Readers were already starting to render the paperback book obsolete, I became distraught. That’s because I had been working on my science fiction novel, on and off, for the better part of the last twenty years and it was very near completion. My novel was always meant to be a paperback; a handy little book that could easily fit in a backpack or a purse. I even knew what the cover art would look like: planet Earth in the background with my main character leaving orbit in his tiny spaceship while two unfolding alien spacecraft approached. I had it all figured out. I knew the printing industry was already getting hit hard but I figured the unique tactile act of reading a paperback book still had a good decade left in it. I don’t believe that anymore. Of course, there will be die-hard paperback fans for many years to come, but eBook Readers are already starting to mimic the experience of having an actual book in your hands. It finally dawned on me that eBook Readers were not my enemy, they were, in fact, very much my friend.

Finding a publisher who is willing to invest their time and money to print thousands of copies of a book written by an unknown author is extremely difficult, to say the least. However, with services such as Amazon.com and Smashwords.com, an unknown author can publish a completed novel, poetry manuscript, or collection of short stories and make it available for sale to basically anyone with internet access in a single day. And the best part is that It’s Free! There are, of course, many more online publishers than just Amazon and Smashwords but many of them are not free. I did finish my novel and published it to Amazon.com’s Kindle platform and Smashwords.com for sale at $9.99. It’s very exciting to see copies of my eBook being bought by people who somehow found my novel among the millions of titles already available through a number of online publishers. I then decided to publish a collection of poetry that I compiled from my high school and college years.

So if you’ve written your memoirs, or have a book length manuscript, or even a collection of short stories or poetry, I highly recommend that you put them up for sale at Amazon.com’s Kindle Store and Smashwords.com. Remember, it’s totally free. Simply go to www.Amazon.com and find the “Self-publish with Us” link at the bottom of the page. Then simply click the “Get Started” link in the Kindle Books section of that page. From there you can set up your account, upload your manuscript, and then name your price. According to the research I’ve done, it’s wise not to price your book too low or potential customers will get the impression that it’s of lesser value than the higher priced options available in the same category. I decided that $9.99 was a reasonable price for my book since it consisted of 36 chapters containing nearly 120,000 words- the length of a decent paperback. $9.99 may seem high for a paperback-length book but there are thousands of eBook titles selling successfully in the $20-$30 range. Granted, many of those higher priced titles are best selling books that have been available to the general public for decades in print form. But because your book is new, it just may attract a customer base that could put some extra cash in your pocket or simply get you noticed for other potentially profitable projects.

Make sure that your manuscript starts out strong because one of the services offered by eBook publishers is a free sample of your work, usually the first 20%. Selling your book is a tough business, but for those of us who believe that what we’re writing is worthwhile for others to read, there’s always a chance for great success. And remember, your customers don’t even need an eBook reader to enjoy your book; they can download it to any PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, or Android. I invite all the readers of this article to sample the first few chapters of my science fiction novel “Rise of The Kek” and my poetry manuscript “The Universe Can Never Be Complete” for free. Simply search for either title at Amazon.com or Smashwords.com.

About The Author

John Burhop is a 44 year old author who graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing: Fiction from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. His science fiction novel “Rise of The Kek” and his poetry manuscript “The Universe Can Never Be Complete” are both available for instant download at Amazon.com and Smashwords.com.

Writing and Publishing My Book: Publishers and Publishing: Why We Still Need Them

“Publishing is a $30 billion industry that relies on one of the oldest and most basic of human creations, the word. If people initially used words to express simple ideas and feelings, they eventually sought more complicated means of preserving extended thoughts, transmitting them to other people, both near and far, and creating structures, such as laws, plays, and sonnets, that were aided by the ability to record, arrange, and store words for later use. Publishing has been a focal point of this human effort to preserve and distribute.

But now one hears of the death of publishing, that computers and the Internet are rendering obsolete publishing and publishing houses. After all, one can write an article or a book and post it online. Or for a small fee, anyone with a computer can format a book and get it printed digitally without a publisher.

What is indisputable is that publishing is undergoing an electronic revolution, much of which has improved quality and made the industry more efficient. Computers and the Internet have affected publishing more than many other industries because its basic product, the word, despite being ancient, is highly adaptable to modern technology.

Three areas in particular have changed in publishing. First, the production process, from editing to typesetting, has been computerized, making it easier to perform certain tasks while greatly reducing costs. Second, publishing has begun to abandon paper for certain works, creating entirely electronic or web-based products. This is especially seen in newspapers and reference books, but novels and books in other genres are increasingly being produced in electronic format. Finally, computers and the Internet have allowed for a new “distributed” workforce. If in the 1990s most work in publishing was still handled in-house, now manuscript preparation is increasingly done by individuals in their own offices or homes, connected to a publisher by phone and e-mail. In our own company we have abandoned the traditional office completely, operating out of a virtual office of electronic workspaces and webcams.

As newspapers are now experiencing, or as encyclopedias found out in the 1990s, there are real changes for publishing in the Internet era, and there’s no going back. The Internet, organized by search engines like Google, is a much less costly and more efficient way to organize and distribute information. It is also likely that the planet will be better off with fewer trees cut, with fewer stacks of old newspapers, and with less pollution caused by paper production.

So is publishing on its way out? It’s unlikely, at least in the foreseeable future, as publishers have long served as more than a middleman between writers and readers. Here are four important functions that publishers have in the Internet era.

Selection. The Internet can provide unlimited access, and search engines can help people find information, but the Internet and search engines can’t determine what’s good and what’s accurate, despite user-generated comments. People will likely still rely on publishers to identify their needs and interests and to select and create works that best meet them.

Preparation. Publishers do more than choose articles and books. They work with authors in organizing, reorganizing, and otherwise improving their text. They also edit and proofread the material and professionally format it into pages, whether on paper or on the Internet. Self-published works are rarely of the same quality as books put out by publishers.

Marketing. Even books sold in electronic format need to find readers. Publishers are in the business of selling books and other materials, and they know their markets. Books sold by publishers far outsell books self-published.

Professionalism. Although writers might be enticed by the possibilities and freedom of self-publishing, they are well served by an industry that maintains standards and provides support and infrastructure for their works. Newspaper publishers enforce journalistic, including ethical, standards that give readers confidence in their text. Reference book publishers ensure accuracy and authority of their works. General trade publishers help identify consumer needs and find books to satisfy them, as well as nurture and support authors who write books of literary merit.”

About the Author

Thomas Riggs & Co Thomas Riggs and Co is a book developer based in Missoula Montana. Thomas Riggs and Company is working within emerging technology that is driving the future of the publishing industry.