Sunday, April 3, 2011

Flux or Revolution?


I’ve been trying to make sense of what I’ve learned over the last few months. Is the industry in a state of flux, or is it in a state of revolution? It is my assertion that debt and recession has shrunk the market for brand-new authors, i.e., ‘real’ publishers, by an estimated ten to twenty percent.

Self-publishing is not revolutionary. It’s been around for a long time. What is revolutionary is that it doesn’t cost any money. What’s revolutionary is that you don’t even have to leave home. You can do it from a blanket on a beach. You can write your book while commuting to your day job on the train and you can publish it from a table at a fine restaurant.

E-books are not going to ‘kill the book.’ The forty or fifty dollar cost of a typical hardcover, or the ten, to fifteen, to twenty-dollar cost of a paperback, are not going to ‘kill the book.’ The sheer weight, bulk, and cost of producing a book, the investment in plant and machinery, plus the high cost of labour and shipping, (i.e. fuel,) will inevitably shrink market share in the face of professional digital publishing and distribution without the use of trucks, warehouses, and human employees unpacking cardboard boxes and sticking books on shelves.

The POD of ‘Case of the Curious Killers,’ is listed at $13.99. By the time it is shipped to your house, it will cost about $20.00 or more, depending upon where you live. My profit would be sixty cents. I can set the price of an e-book at less than two dollars and still make my sixty cents.

Is there some reason why big box publishers can’t see this? I have no costs—no costs except my own time and labour. It’s a good investment, from my point of view.

The old fashioned full-service gas station went away, for many reasons. It was hard to get good help for a buck-ten an hour, which is what the wage was back then. But it was the sheer weight of traffic that actually killed the old fashioned gas station. No one was willing to wait for thirteen cars ahead of them to be filled.

Global online traffic is growing at an exponential pace, especially in developing and newly developed nations.

In five years, ninety or ninety-five percent of all publishing in major markets will be digital, and that’s just because people will still be sticking flyers in old people’s mailboxes. It will never be one hundred percent.

‘Readers,’ are a small demographic group. I’m not saying this to be facetious. But someone remarked that ten million people in France read ten books a year or less, and someone else pointed out that only ‘x-percent’ of people in this other country read ‘y-number’ of books a year. There are plenty of other things to do which don’t require the investment of time that a good book demands of a reader. Why read when you can flip through two hundred channels of TV?

But what really got me was how much time I spend reading online. It’s about ninety-eight, or ninety-nine percent of my reading now. Without a computer, I would read a good deal less. Also, I read much less fiction than I did before, and a lot more technical and how-to material. Digital publishing brings the most up-to-date research to my device. With the devices available today, an old fashioned book is only one kind of programming, and providing it, like music, in the most portable, convenient, and ecologically sound manner makes perfect sense to this writer.

Stripping away everything that is inessential about a book and distributing it globally, to a potential market of one-point-six billion English speakers, at a world-shattering price of one dollar—that is revolutionary, ladies and gentlemen.

That would be a stroke of genius, if it ever comes up in conversation or debate.

A week or so ago, I gave away a box of CD’s. I may never buy a CD again, and the likelihood of buying an ‘LP’ ever again seems rather slim. Did the iPod and MP-3s kill music?

Did sound recorded on wax cylinders kill the orchestra?

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