E-Reader Hysteria: A little common sense to correct the discussion – Part 4

I have a few random and quick final observations that I want to add to the e-reader discussion before we move on:

1. As new-sale bookstores continue to suffer, second-hand bookstores will thrive.

New-sale bookstore closures are following the pattern set by the highly publicized closings of specialized music, video and record stores. As more and more people convert to e-readers over the coming decade (and old and hard-to-find books become available electronically) some of us will pitch our dusty and disintegrating paper versions.

(Yes – they will. No – that is NOT a sacrilege! Let’s go through this again: the medium is not the message.)

Books will then become a bit of a collector’s item. Not always for actual reading, but for having. Like baseball cards, vinyl albums and cameras that use film. Just as specialty-music stores have found their niches and are surviving in the new world of music downloads, used bookstores and specialty bookstores could thrive in the digital-book age.

2. The future of bookmarks is hazy.

Obviously, with e-readers you don’t need one. But they are an ubiquitous marketing tool for authors… So will authors continue to have them printed? Maybe. They are colorful, informative memory-prompters that fit into most purses. And they are harder to lose than a business card. It’s quite possible they will still be handed out by the thousands for the next several years.

But if anyone has another cheap, quick, marketing idea – get on it. YOU could make a jillion dollars!

3. Editors and agents already read and edit their submissions on e-readers.

Having said THAT, I need to tell you what happened this past weekend when I was pitching a manuscript to several editors at a writers’ conference. After saying in a panel that they are looking for something different, in a fresh voice, two different editors actually said to me: “I don’t know how I would sell that… Publishers like their boxes.”

How ironic. Reading submissions on the very device that makes their job unnecessary in my “I-don’t-want-to-write-in-your-box” career.

So what made my book un-sellable in their eyes? It was set in Norway, not England or Scotland. I. Am. Serious.

4. E-readers/e-publishing can save University presses.

University presses are an arguably essential – if obscure – segment in the world of scholarly non-fiction publishing. They bring prestige to universities by publishing the research and written work of their highly-degreed staff members.

These books obviously have very low sales and a very narrow reading audience. But e-publishing is free, unlike standard paper publishing, and books can be distributed to other universities across the country in a few seconds. In the climate of squished and smashed budgets, this is VERY good news!

5. Now – Repeat after me:

  • I will not say anything good or bad about e-readers until I have read at least one full-length novel on one.
  • I will not make claims that I assume to be true about e-readers until I have done the research.
  • I will keep an open mind and admit that an e-reader might be in my future – because I don’t want to have to eat my words later.

Have I missed anything?





5 Responses to “E-Reader Hysteria: A little common sense to correct the discussion – Part 4”

  1. 1 bethtrissel 04/19/2010 at 10:03 AM

    Super post! Hurrah for E-readers. I want one.

  2. 2 Anita Clenney 04/19/2010 at 10:04 AM

    As always on your blog,I find wisdom wrapped in humor. Love it. And The Primer for Beginning Authors was the same. Well worth reading.

  3. 4 Julie Robinson 04/19/2010 at 10:22 AM

    I love my ereader and so does my DH. BUT I prefer print. And I love used book stores. My DH dreads when I say I’m going to B&N or Borders. To write, of course. I always seem to come back with a book. We are bursting at the seams. Just yesterday, he complained that our house was a fire hazard. He failed to notice all his electronic equipment!

    Kris, I’m sorry to hear about the hypocrisy of some editors and agents. What happened to breaking out of the mold? I guess the larger publishing houses have to wait and see if a different setting or character-type will be popular in smaller houses before they latch on to its selling potential.

  4. 5 Rayka 04/19/2010 at 10:46 AM

    Excellent wisdom. I agree that much of the hysteria is unwarranted because the landscape is changing so fast. A loaf of bread, a jug wine, and some perspective (not unlike Kahlil Gibran) seems much needed. Thanks for taking the time to write that.
    All the best with your book.

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