E-Books Are Here To Stay

Have you read any good books lately (besides any of mine)? 😉 If so, on which “platform?” E-book or paperback?

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

Thus tweets the editor of the New York Times Book Review. Some replying have questioned it, pointing out for instance that it is just one year, and also that many e-books are “overpriced” by large publishers while many paperbacks are “priced to sell.” Yet it does once more address that tantalizing question: E-books or paperbacks?

I hate talking money. However, occasionally we do all alas have to nod to it in life. Many readers might not know: Kindle and other e-readers have been a real boost for us lesser-knowns and those looking to break into authoring, who often indie publish to get a start.

For a single 99 cent e-book sale, an indie author gets a relatively large royalty cut for such an inexpensive product. In contrast, for, say, a “$12” paperback, the author usually gets much less of the percentage of the total sale – far more goes to Amazon. Yet that has long been the case for authors under contracts with large, “famous” publishing companies, too. Years ago my now late uncle had told me one of his publishers used to pay him $2 per hardcover book sold – books that were often “$20” or more at retail.

So an indie author might have to sell only four or five 99 cent e-books to earn about the same royalties as a single paperback would earn, while that paperbook could be 10 or 12 times more expensive for the book buyer.

Free Stock Photo: A female student reading a book.
Free Stock Photo: A female student reading a book.

Yes, an “advertising” exists when due to its cover others see someone reading a paperback. Having no visible cover, that’s something that doesn’t happen with an e-reader. However, having 4 or 5 e-books in circulation and the “word of mouth” flowing from those is likely far better longer-term for a lesser-known.

Thus inexpensive e-books are a great deal for both author and reader/purchaser. And this seems also common sense. Most of us as book purchasers – and we writers are readers, too, so we know – are certainly more willing to take a chance on some lesser-known author whose e-book is only 99 cents than we probably would be to fork out perhaps $10 or $14 for the same paperback.

Because of the internet, the written word itself is now “worth” much “less” than ever before. We know free web sites are everywhere. Free e-books abound. “Classic” books – due to now expired copyrights – are to be had for the finding. It could not be a better time to be a reader.

But it’s harder being an author in this respect at least: there is so much out there that’s free it is also tougher than ever to ask anyone to pay for what you’ve written. Yet there is an upside to that, too: there are now the “lowest” of barriers to authoring entry, with e-books making it possible for many who would never have written a book before to indie publish.

Screen capture of Amazon email.
Screen capture of Amazon email.

Some are quick to point out that there are also masses of “questionable quality” indie-published e-books out there. That is certainly true to some extent. Yet if we think about it, there weren’t “questionable quality” print books marketed from large publishers before indie-published e-books existed?

Indeed, aren’t there still quite a few “questionable quality” titles flowing from large publishers in the name of chasing the “Almighty Dollar?” As Sir Salman Rushdie famously said of Fifty Shades: “I’ve never read anything so badly written that got published. It made Twilight look like War and Peace.”

Sales of e-books naturally will fluctuate much as do sales of print books. But e-books – in whatever form – are here to stay. Inventions are never “uninvented.”

And we as readers have e-books to thank for this revolution: the world of a small number of large publishers dominating the literature scene is essentially no more. After a search, a click, and a download, there is something out there enjoyable for everyone and – importantly – easily accessible as well. Both authoring and reading are now more “democratic” than ever before.

Hope you’re having a good Monday. 🙂