According to Bowker’s last publishing report, the number of self-published book titles available in the marketplace went up 59% between 2011 and 2012. These are staggering figures. The report looked at U.S. ISBN data to identify that there were more than 391,000 books self-published in 2012! Of these, E-books made up approximately 40 percent of the ISBNs.
Does it surprise anyone that so many e-books are flooding the market, often being offered for free on Amazon among other places? Even for the e-books which are not given away for free, prices have dropped dramatically. Is this a good thing for readers? I was using a treadmill recently in our building’s gym on a rainy day. The woman next to me was reading on a Kindle as she walked.
“How do you like your Kindle?” I asked.
She smiled. “I love it. I get to read so many more books than I ever did before. And lots of them are free. It’s wonderful.”
I think that says it for many readers. Some of the features are great for readers. For instance, e-book readers are lightweight and compact. Yet they hold many titles. Also you can adjust the font size. This is a blessing for those of us who prefer large print which is easier on the eyes.
But what about writers? Is this good for them? Here’s one positive. Many writers have had books and short stories published in the past. Too soon these titles have gone out of print. This is one way to make backlist titles available to the public for long periods of time. By self-publishing an e-book, a writer can keep work available to readers indefinitely.
A second positive for writers: many would remain unpublished but for the advent of e-books. Publishers will only invest in books they believe will make money. A majority of books will earn out very little, especially if the author is unknown. By self-publishing an e-book, a frustrated writer has the opportunity to get his/her work out in the marketplace and hopefully read by the public.
For those who believe in democracy, this is indeed a democratic revolution. The internet has provided a forum for writers of all kinds. It has opened the floodgates of self-expression. Of course, it is also a bit overwhelming. Certainly, not every e-book will go viral—nor should it. But at least hopeful writers will get the exposure they so crave.
The negative factors are quite obvious as well. First, with such a flood of e-books on the market, quality writers may be ignored. Secondly, as to reviews, they often come from friends and relatives and are not necessarily meaningful. Third, many readers simply ignore unknown names and look only at the work of famous writers and celebrities when they buy books. The attitude is that they may download a free book when it’s offered, but won’t buy subsequent books as the author is hoping. This leads to much disappointment among wannabe authors. It may be coming to a point where there are many more books than readers. And of course, if there are no gatekeepers, anything and everything can be published with little regard to quality. Readers are still much more willing to pay for “brand” name authors. E-publishing appears to be something of a mixed blessing.
For me as a writer, I don’t know what the future will hold. My co-authored Five Star/Gale family mystery THE THIRD EYE, initially out in hardcover in September, is now offered by the publisher as an ebook on Kindle for $3. Will the novel now draw a wider readership?
My short story collection, BEYOND THE BO TREE, was published as an ebook on Amazon this summer. Do such collections draw readers?
I won a writing contest sponsored by Australian publisher, Eside Media. There was a generous cash prize as well as publication which occurred yesterday. This will be my first novel published initially as an e-book in all platforms. THE CHEVALIER is a sensual historical romance set in the Georgian period. I hope it draws many romance readers.
What are your thoughts? Does the e-book revolution thrill you as a reader and/or as an author?