Good morning my friends!
The other day I was listening to a discussion between a store clerk and a university professor sort of woman. The two of them seemed to be bemoaning the popularity of electronic reading devices. The clerk went to far as to say this: "It's going to be like 'Fahrenheit 451' because books are going to cease to exist and stories and thoughts are going to be illegal." (For those of you not familiar, "Fahrenheit 451" is the story of a society that burns books and homes where books are found. I haven't read it in decades, but my son had to recently read it for his English class.)
Now, as much as I respect the opinions of store clerks on most things, I have to say that this gent could not be more wrong when it comes to electronic publishing. If the Internet has done nothing else, it has opened the world up to artists, singers, movies, and stories that would never have made it out of the artists' basement. The iPod and other music devices has made it possible for musicians who might never have been heard in this country to be a household name in my own home.
It's only logical that the same would hold true for literature. I realize I've been very influenced in the last year by authors like J.A. Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson who are fully embracing the opportunities e-publishing offers, but my thoughts go a bit deeper than whether or not I can sell books online. (I can, and I will, by the way, on June 4th.)
First of all, let's talk about the publishing industry. With the economy in the tank, sales of books, other than romance, which continue to sell at a ridiculous pace, have dropped. Publishers are simply not taking chances on new authors because they can't afford to risk money on a print book for an unproven name. People aren't going to pay $24.00 for a hardcover copy of a book that might not be any good. And they aren't going to pay it for a book that is good because guess what? Second hand bookstores like "Half Price Books" are growing while their new book counterparts, such as Borders, are closing shop. Why should I pay full retail for a book I can get second hand for half or less the price? In fact, why should I pay half price when I can get the same book online as a download for $2.99?
(By the way...movie producers take note. What's happening to Borders and other retail stores is going to happen to theaters sooner rather than later. $10 for a movie that's marginally good is too much when I can stream something for $8 a month on Netflix.)
So book publishers are simply not offering as much new material as they could because the cost is too high to take a chance. So while big name authors and celebrities will continue to release print books, it is very likely that new titles by new names are going to taper off tremendously. This would be the death of new ideas and stories, were it not for the Internet.
By e-publishing, stories that might not make the very finicky cut in the publishing world are going to be told. My own book, "Lies in Chance" is being released on June 4. It's been rejected so many times by some many different agents and editors, I was about to give up completely, even though my beta readers LOVED it. (And I have very picky beta readers.) Shara's story might never be told if I leave it up to traditional publishing.
But let's look at this from a purely practical standpoint. The environment. The same people who are weeping at the death of the printed book are those who typically chain themselves to trees. Well, my friends, no trees were harmed in the publishing of "Lies in Chance."
Let's ponder for a moment, a world without print books. Let's think about the room in your house that wouldn't be taken up by shelves and shelves of books. Let's talk about the savings to the environment when millions of books aren't being printed, when instead a small file on a reading device is all you need.
The possibilities are endless. How much would schools save if instead of textbooks, they had electronic readers for everyone? (Granted, the initial investment would be steep, but instead of the schools buying books, the students could buy the devices and then textbooks could be updated every year if needed, with minimal cost to the school. Gone would be the days of horribly outdated history books!) College textbooks...on a reading device! Think of the savings to everyone!
Those of you concerned about how heavy your child's backpack is...why aren't you SCREAMING for electronic textbooks? A kid could buy one of these in, let's say, second grade. By the time he/she is in college, the reader would have more than paid for itself. I paid more for my kid's calculator for his geometry class than an e-reader costs. We do it for other things....why are we as parents clinging to and whining about printed textbooks?
So let's review. Instead of a dark world where there are no books....we have a world with way more trees, we have a world where fifth graders aren't suffering low back injuries, and we have a world where there is room for every story, every idea, every new literary character.