revolution in books

I’m in New York on business, the business of being a published author. Borders declared bankruptcy while I’m here. Everyone in the publishing business is reeling from that. My agent thinks the day of the hardcover book may be ending. An editor friend talks about authors she represents having more e-book sales than actual books you touch. The Authors’ Guild and other organizations that represent authors are wrangling with publishers and e-book creators about the percentage of e-book sales that go to the author. It’s like the publishing world has been eating hay in the stall, while the tech thoroughbreds raced out of the gate long ago and are far off in the distance. Another agent talked about browsing in a book store, and the sales that come from that. Think about walking into one, and covers of different books luring you. How do you establish the same lure online? It’s do-able, I know. I wonder what it will look like.

I don’t think the actual, touchable book is dead. I do think we’re in a revolution of immense proportions about how we access information. Many people I know have e-readers of some kind now, even those that adore books and bookstores. Interesting times.

Me? I’ve got a foot in each world. I’m going to be doing something called a blog tour for the new book in June. The author tour, except for big names and celebrities, is dead, so I’m told. I ought to know because I did an author tour a few years ago (another blog sometime when I’ve had some wine to kill the pain). But I’ll do a few book signings in Houston. And my agent wants me to do a small video on my site (will I tap dance or sing?), and I already have skype, and I’ve just written to you online and linked to a place where you can buy my latest book.

And I’m going to the Strand Bookstore here in New York as soon as I finish this. On Broadway, 18 miles of books, so it brags. Got to go wander among some books, dream the dreams they make me vision. 

Where are you in this revolution? Do you like your e-reader? What do you miss about an actual book….if anything…..I don’t think the book is dead, and I know story isn’t….what about you?

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12 responses to “revolution in books

  1. Check out Jason Epstein’s BOOKS: ONWARD TO THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION in the NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, Feb 10,2011. And I love my Kindle because it’s easy on my eyes and I can read for longer periods of time, these days. I think, however, my eyes were weakened by so many hours on the computer–win/lose? Who can figure it all out. But publishing is in a new upheaval. Loved Epstein’s analysis. Have fun at the Strand

  2. I own a Kindle. I still find myself wanting the books I love in hardback. I do think fewer average books will get beyond ebook. I still buy a lot of books at bookstores. I just buy more ebooks now as well. I think bookstores will adapt. Brick and mortar is not dead but it has to offer more value added features. Coffee is just a start. Community is something we all want. How does the bookstore do that? How do they profit from it? The next Innovator is figuring that out right now.

  3. K:
    The touch, feel and weight of a book make reading enjoyable for me. Kindle and others…doesn’t seem the same as the pages you can touch, feel between your fingers as you near the end of one and go to the next. There is more than the the act of reading to consider. The process is soothing, often enjoyed in bed, propped up on pillows. A total joy.
    J

  4. judith schara caldwell

    A time of great flux. Right now every thing is available in all formats. It would be interesting to see the demographics on who buys what. My instinct tells me that digital or ebooks sell to a younger book reader. I will be reluctant to give up paper books that I can mark up, turn the pages down, carry around like a much beloved pet.

  5. Things I love about real books….the smell and crispness of a fresh new book. Closing the book periodically and gazing at the front cover for visual clues to what the characters may look like. I like second hand books too – especially from loved ones. With dog-eared pages. Bent covers. Crumbs. And maybe warped pages from the accidental splash of water in the bath  Loved books are the best.

  6. I’ve been holding out on getting an e-reader for years because I love the smell and feel of books, but I got a Kindle for a Christmas gift in 2010 and I’m so happy with it that I plan to never buy a paper book again. It weighs next to nothing and doesn’t have to be held open, which is a big help to my arthritic fingers. The font is always the same size. I can indulge in my love of reading multiple books without lugging around the printed versions. And the books are only a few clicks away. I cannot say enough good things about my Kindle!

  7. I recieved a NOOK for my birthday in October and have been reading like a maniac! I was actually just spoken to by my husband for spending almost $70 in a week on E-Books haha It is quite dangerous for me as a fast reader to have an unlimited supply of books at my fingertips whereas before I was trying to fit in a trip to the bookstore in my schedule or waiting for someone else to finish a book so that I may borrow. I LOVE snuggling up with a cup of hot tea and a good book whether I am reading it on my NOOK or have the actual hardcover in hand. My only disappointment with the electronic reader is that not all authors have the “Lend Me” option available so I am no longer able to share most of my reads with my friends and family. Leaves us all bummed because we had a great book-lending system and now I can only share my reads in hope that the others will purchase the novels and enjoy them as much as I did. I cant wait until the new novel is out!

  8. I treasure my books (touch and feel) too much to do otherwise. Gift giving always includes books to friends and family. Count me in for browsing the bookstores for the next 20 years.

  9. Who would have thunk it.. the moment I am able to aquire a room to officially call ‘my library’.. the book is declared obsolete.
    However, not in my world.
    To each their own. I prefer the book .. the real book.. and someday if I ever have that need to read a book standing in line (not with my screaming kids) or take the subway (none around for thousands of miles) or a bus (my town doesn’t have public transportation) .. perhaps I’ll question whether or not I would prefer to have thousand of books at my fingertips. I’ll figure that out when that time comes. Till then, you’ll find me in my library.

  10. There is something soothing about holding a book and turning the pages as you read……maybe feathering a couple of pages back to something that grabs you.
    “ebooks” are too “cold” for me. Part of my reading is to escape the hard, non-personal world of technology which is here and it is useful, but it doesn’t warm my heart!

  11. I agree, a change is definitely in process. I love physical books but I can’t deny the convenience and prices of ebooks

  12. I have a Kindle app on my Android that I am just beginning to use. I find the very small screen a bit unappealing, but once I get into what I’m reading I find it doesn’t matter. In spite of this, I just ordered two new paperback books on Amazon.

    As with downloadable music: if I care a lot about what I’m buying, I get the physical version; if I don’t care so much, I get the electronic.

    When films came out, they said it would kill vaudeville — which it did until TV came along and gave the old vaudevillians a lucrative new venue with an unfathomably large audience. Then they said TV would kill the movies, which it started to do until people realized that there is no substitute for the shared experience of a widescreen film with crazy mega-sound.

    Then when YouTube, Bittorrent, On Demand, etc. came along, they said it would kill TV, but then we realized there is no substitute for the shared experience of watching a first-run episode and talking about at the water cooler the next day.

    It is also worth noting that live theatre has chugged along quite nicely through all of this……

    It will be like this with the Kindle, NOOK, iPad, smartphones, etc. Once we settle into the new technology, the old technology will find its niche and stay there. Maybe it will never be what it was in its heyday, but it will still be sustainable. And perhaps that’s all to the good.

    Ironically, when there is too much money to be made, the Powers That Be are all the more conservative and less willing to invest in anything that will not have the broadest appeal. And that, for the most part, is schlock.

    In the age of the Long Tail and digital download, we have an abundance of choices available instantaneously and a media industry that is anxious to meet diverse needs.

    So perhaps a bestseller won’t bring in the hardcover megabucks it once did, but maybe a publishing house will present a dozen new offbeat authors for electronic distribution only, since this will require minimal investment.

    We live in interesting times!

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