Monday, August 30, 2010

Kindle, E-Books, and Traditional Publishing

My husband bought me a Kindle for my birthday ( which hasn't happened quite yet), and neither has the Kindle :)  By that, I mean it hasn't arrived.  He bought one, then discovered the next day that they were bringing out a brand new model, same price, on August 27th.  So he cancelled the first one and ordered the new one...which still hasn't arrived.

This whole rigamarole got me to thinking:  what is the Kindle and others like it going to do to traditional print books?  Is it going to have any effect on them?  My answer is Yes.  But I think the UNanswerable question is, what kind of effect and how much of one.  ( Okay, okay, I know that's two questions! )

In searching through the Kindle bookstore on Amazon, I found many of the classics that could be electronically transmitted to your Kindle.  Classics like Tom Sawyer, Little Women, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and many many others.  Classics which have become e-books;  classics that you no longer have to hold in your hand, smell the print, touch the covers.  I don't know, but for me,  there are some books that should never see the light of day as e-books, and classics number highly among those.  And...many of those classics are free.

Now which would you rather do...go to an antique books store, and rummage around all those wonderful old books until you find just the right one...maybe even with a LEATHER cover...OR...pick up an electronic gadget and read it there?  What about the smell of old books?  Isn't there something to be said for the smell of old books when you go into that antique store?  You know, to me, those smells conjure up all kinds of images of days past...young women in hoop skirts with long curls swirling over their shoulders while they sit in their parlors reading by gas lamps;  a young man in a 3 piece suit bending over a young woman's slim hand, while holding a beautifully wrapped book behind his back to surprise her much more dignity and graciousness in those days than in our world today.  And it all begins with books. Printed books.  Sigh.  But that was yesteryear.

Enough reminiscing.  Back to the present and future.  So...will e-books hurt the traditional publishing?  Some editors and publishers say yes, eventually, some say no, not at all.  I had a conversation with a friend recently who is also a writer.  She seems to think that having a manuscript turned into an e-book, rather than going the traditional publishing way, is similar to, but better than, self-publishing.  Our discussion centered around someone we both know who is having her first manuscript published as an e-book.  Yet this person, whom we both think very highly of, is just not ready to have a book published.  In any form.  It hasn't been critiqued, there are a few SPAG errors still in it, but the main problem is the plot and characterizations.  But the editor seems to think it's fine, so it will be published in e-book form.

I think this will diminish her as a writer if she decides to go the traditional route with another book.  She will add the e-book to her writing credits, and if the editor or assistant editor or first reader decides to check it out...hmm...that will not be a good thing.  So another question becomes:  will publishing as an e-book harm credibility if the author decides to go the traditional way?  Especially if the author is newly published?

Another way to look at e-books is all of the multiple-published authors ( in the adult field) whose books are now being published as e-books: authors like James Patterson, Lisa Jackson, John Grisham.  These are among my favorites, and all have multiple books published by traditional publishers.  I'm sure you'll find your favorite authors published electronically, also.

But the difference is:  these authors have been published in print for years and years.  Their books are still being put on book shelves as print books, so now being published as e-books is just another venue for them.  I doubt that any will forego print for electronic.

Then there are first-time authors like my friend and me.  I don't think I would consider publishing first as an fact, I'm sure I wouldn't.  But IF I did, would that lessen my credibility for print publishing?  I don't know.  Some people who supposedly know say that self-publishing lessens credibility, but we all know famous authors who self-published their first book, and look where they are today.

I guess this is one of those things where the best answer is:  wait and see.  E-books are here to stay, there's no doubt about that.  I think one thing we need to seriously consider, as children's and YA writers, is another question:  how many kids, even teens or at least, young teens, are going to have Kindles or its equivilent?  If you had an 8 year old, or 10, 12 or even 15 year old, would you trust them with an expensive electronic devise such as a Kindle?  Many parents would not, and probably rightly so.  Kids of any age just don't take care of their expensive "toys" the way we'd like them to, so why pay $200 - $500 for a Kindle which might not last them more than a month or two?  And if they don't have Kindles...they don't have e-books, do they? !

So if you're like me, and you are writing for kids of any age, I would suggest taking the traditional route to matter how long it takes or how frustrating it becomes.

Of course, there's always that chance that by the time we get published in print, Kindles will be down to $20 and all e-books are $4.99 !  Oh well...nobody said being a writer was a bed of roses.

Until next time, that's a wrap.