Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Changing Face of Publishing and How We Read

Only someone who's been living in a cave for the past few years would be unaware of how the way we read has been changing.  But the changes we're experiencing haven't just happened in a short time.  While e-books and e-publishing are still considered new, the electronic book has actually been around for just over 40 years.   Can't be true, you say?  Au contraire.  The U.S. Declaration of Independence became the first ebook in the world when Michael Hart (March 8, 1947 – September 6, 2011) launched Project Gutenberg in 1971. And what a grand project it is!

I can't remember a time when I didn't have books.  I've always been a reader.  As an only child, books kept me company when there was no one else around to play with.  Books have always been and always will be my friends.  Proof of that lies in the multitude of boxes filled with the overflow of books from the bookcases and bookracks that grace every room of my house...except the bathroom.  I love books.  It's that simple.

As I've blogged about before, I wasn't only hesitant but rigidly convinced I would never, ever, ever want to read a book on some plastic thing that resembled a small, thin Etch A Sketch.  I love books too much to ever want to replace them with a "toy."  And then friends started talking about how much they enjoyed their Kindles and Nooks and Kobos and all the other types of e-readers available.  Even one of my daughters was reading books on her phone!  (And this the daughter who never finished a book until high school, when she read Sharon Sala's Jackson Rule.)  So I looked around, I researched, I read hundreds of comments by owners and users, and I decided that buying an e-reader might not be such a bad idea after all.  My question now?  Why did I wait so long?

Harris Poll reported in September 2011 that One in Six Americans Now Use E-Reader with One in Six Likely to Purchase in Next Six Months.  That's a lot of e-readers, folks.  And that's only figuring per person.  My youngest has enjoyed reading on my Kindle, and in our extended family, both granddaughters have used mine and their mothers' Kindles to read.  CNN reported last month that the ownership of tablets and e-readers almost doubled in the month of December 2011.  Almost doubled.

But it isn't just reading books on e-readers that's changed.  It's how books are being published.  In addition to large, mostly New York-based, traditional publishers--the Big Six and others such as Harlequin--there are smaller publishers, offering books in print, POD (Print On Demand), and electronic, that have taken root and are giving the big guys some competition.  Add to these the newest opportunity of being your own independent (indie) publisher, and getting your stories out to readers has become easier and easier--whether you've never been published before or you have several books that are traditionally published.

Writers today have both a world of opportunity at their fingertips and a multitude of decisions to make to put those opportunities to work for them.  And work it has become, as many writers are finding out.  Not only is a writing career about writing, it's also about marketing and selling and promotion and many things some never did in the past and weren't prepared to do in the present.

The way we read, thanks to electronic books and the availability of all books is changing faster than many of us can keep up with.  And if you're a writer, it becomes even more complicated.  Publishers, too, are trying to stay on course and discovering that what worked before now must be changed, then tweaked, then changed again.  As a writer, it pays to keep an eye on the changes, to study not only what people are buying, but how they are buying, and then to fit your writing into this new world.  Not always the easiest of tasks, but definitely not a challenge that can or should be ignored.

Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are. - Bernice Johnson Reagon


Lilian Darcy said...

The quote is a great finish for this post! It's so true.

Mad Romance Writer aka Rox Delaney said...

Thank you! There's so much information that needs to be shared. Trying to squeeze it into one blog post is impossible. It's something that must be revisited often as publishing continues to shift and morph.

I appreciate that you stopped by and took the time to not only read but comment. :)