The Growing Question of e-books

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This last term at SHU (I start posts off like that a lot, don’t I?), graduating student Traci Castleberry did her teaching module on e-books and e-publishing. One of the points she brought up is that there’s good writing and bad writing in both traditional publishing and e-publishing.

I admit to being one of those who pooh-poohed e-books for quite a long time. Over the last year, however, I’ve been re-thinking my stance. With the growing number of reputable e-book publishers (see the EPIC website for a pretty comprehensive list) and the technical advances in the field (Kindle anyone?), e-books are becoming a rather viable market.

Recently author Daniel Oran released his second novel, Believe, as a Kindle-only title and ended up getting as high as #4 on the Kindle Bestsellers. Now, whether that says more about his writing or his .99 price tag, you’ll have to decide for yourself. But with Amazon’s high profile, being on any of their ‘Bestselling’ lists would be a coup in itself.

I think the e-book business model is a good one on the surface. Low overhead, lower pricing, higher profits. However, the flaws are similar to what the music and movie businesses are battling right now. Currently, there’s not really an easy way to get a print book into digital format, aside from audio books. Once they’re being produced digitally, how will pirating be handled? And is it really any different than passing a favorite book around for other people to borrow? These are difficult questions.

Those of us who are die-hard, let-me-hold-it-in-my-hand, book lovers want to believe that print books will always be around. The hard truth, though, is that the generations coming up now don’t hold the same love and–dare I say–nostalgia for them. These kids are being raised on MySpace and Facebook, being entertained by tiny screens playing their favorite tv shows, and perpetually hooked into the net via smart-phones and MP3 players on steroids. Why would they want to lug around a big paper book? These are realities we have to face.

When it’s all said and done, I’m still a bit unsure about e-books. It’s definitely a growing niche. I just wonder if it will outgrow us.

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