Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Interesting Times and Chinese Curses

The times they are a-changing.

My  favorite quote from the NJRW conference last weekend was from Alicia Condon, Editorial Director of the Brava imprint at Kensington.  She pointed out that the line, "May you live in interesting times" comes from a Chinese curse. Yes, a curse.

Given all the conflicting predictions, dire and hopeful, floating around right now about the future of publishing, while the "experts" might not agree on much, there's no denying that the industry is going through some pretty intense changes and will continue to over the near future.

And the curse might lie mostly in the uncertainty. Publishing is stressful enough without all this dang extra uncertainty!

I'm not one to buy into all the dire, sky-is-falling predictions about publishing. I do, however, think that the publishing industry (and authors) need to educate the public--as the music industry did back in the Napster days--that downloading creative media for free, when it hasn't been offered for free by the creator or rights holder, is STEALING.

Yes, some people will always steal, but most people who'd never consider stealing a book from a bookstore might now download a book they find on the internet without batting an eyelash. And I think the generation currently hitting adulthood have been conditioned to think that any content on the internet is free for the taking and should be. So that's an issue... And a big one. But if handled, it shouldn't spell the end of getting paid to write books.

Another negative prediction I've heard that rang true for me, is that publishers might stop printing ANY copies of books that aren't expected to be bestsellers... (They are already cutting back on print runs, big time, and expecting much higher overall sell-throughs.) And this means that many (most) authors might see a day, fairly soon, when we can't actually hold our books... Sad, but...

I also think that, especially for genre fiction which has a huge established fan-base, e-books and e-readers could actually be a boon.

The reason I jump to this conclusion (instead of thinking the sky is falling) is because e-readers make impulse buys so much easier. I recently bought a kindle and I've bought a few books already that I was curious about, and/or wanted to buy to support the author, but that I might not have bought in print because, well, in print then I'd have to deal with storing the physical book and anyone who's been to my house knows I already have a serious book storage problem and it's becoming hard to spot my bed behind the huge mountain of books that surrounds it.

So, as much as I know I can't predict the future, I do expect that e-readers will lead avid readers to buy and read more books, not fewer. On the other hand, readers who tend to pick up one or two books a year, might not buy an e-reader, and if the publishers stop printing mid-list authors, this reader will only ever see the few books that retailers put in stores... But then again, the reader who only buys one or two books a year, was probably only ever picking up those bestselling books, anyway.

Who the heck knows...

But one thing is certain. Those of us trying to survive in the publishing world do live in interesting times.

Consider yourself cursed. :)

Has anyone else bought an e-reader? Which one? How do you like it?

18 comments:

Karen W said...

I got a Kindle for Christmas last year. I resisted, even when all my friends had them, because I love the feel of a book in my hand. My husband thought it would be a waste of money and I wouldn't ever use it. Hah, was he wrong.

I read way more now that I have a Kindle. I try more new authors, different genres, and best of all -I haven't increased my towering TBR stack. Hubby keeps asking me when I'm going to read those books piled up in my bedroom.

The ONLY downside to the Kindle is how easy it is to spend money. Sure, I'm rabid about going to Amazon once a week and downloading the free reads. I've gotten some great books that I would have bought anyway that way. (Like Anne Stuart and Diana Gabaldon). But because it's SO easy to buy a book at any given time, impulse buying can be a problem. I've actually been shocked a few times when I opened my credit card bill and saw how many books I'd bought!

That said, I'd never go back. All the books I buy from now on will be on Kindle, except for the occasional hardcover that I want to keep. I've actually pondered getting rid of my crazy huge library of paperbacks - I gave away eight huge grocery sacks full of books, but have several hundred more.

Love, love, love, my Kindle.

And now that I have the rights back to five old Dorchester books, I'm going to self-pup them on Kindle myself!

Simone said...

I have a Sony. I adore it. Even though I can't buy books straight onto it, I sure manage to buy enough ebooks even with the extra step. I've used it to buy books that aren't in stock at my local bookstore. I've used it to download free books (offered, of course) from authors I haven't tried. I've used it to borrow books from my library. I've used it to download out of copyright books.

I actually really feel for the publisher in this. It's impossible for the average consumer to keep up with the changes in the ebook market, let alone a company that has to hire staff to fill the demand.

The internet is the wild, wild west, folks. One of the reasons the movie The Social Network was so interesting.

Kimber Chin said...

Well, I think the folks who read only one or two books are likely only reading the bestsellers anyway.

And you are SO right about impulse purchases with eBooks. My preference is eBook now because of the storage issue and because I don't have to explain to the hubby why I bought yet another book. I buy shorts to read on lunch breaks. I tend to buy MORE books now than I did before.

I don't use an eReader (though I have a couple of them). I prefer to read on my laptop or computer.

Heather Wardell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather Wardell said...

It's interesting you posted this today, Maureen, as I did a guest post today on reasons why ebooks are better than paper. (It's at http://www.lorisreadingcorner.com/2010/10/guest-post-giveaway-planning-to-live-by.html)

I read for years on various Palm devices and now on my hand-me-down iPhone, and I love it. I haven't bought paper in forever, and no matter where I have I have (tons of) books to read.

(Sorry about the deletion, I messed up a link. :)

Heather Wardell said...

(Can't do another deleted comment so I will let "I have I have" stand even though I desperately want to change it. :)

David Barron said...

My feeling is that sooner or later publishers will either figure out e-publishing or cease to be publishers. It's creative destruction, baby!

Whether it'll be Sooner rather than Later is up to debate.

As for only seeing bestsellers in print, you can go to Lightning Source or some other Print-on-Demand service and get books delivered on demand for a reasonable price.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I think the book buying public is going to be split between ebooks and Walmart/grocery stores/drug stores and On-line book sellers. Because it's about that impulse buy - getting to the consumer that wasn't going to buy your book. Or the consumer that wa specifically going to buy your book. the days of the idle book store browser is decreasing.

I was thinking about all of this and Harlequin the other day - two years ago I went to the Harlequin distribution center and they had just purchased a small run printing press - they could do I think up to 5000 books. And when I listened to all those authors talking about the dwindling first print run and how hard it is to fullfil reorders because of the print press schedules I thought - man, they did it again. One step ahead. They just do it themselves...

Simone said...

Harlequin not only stays ahead of the market, they manage to get money out of me every time I go to that website. They are geniuses over there.

Maureen McGowan said...

I went to see a panel of authors last night, because DWT friend Chevy Stevens was part of it. One of the other author's books sounded interesting to me, and it looked beautiful -- one of those nice trade paperbacks with the extra thick paper... But standing in the mini-bookstore at Harbourfront and with the author a few feet away... I pulled out my kindle and bought it that way.

Then, in a potentially awkward moment, when another DWT friend, Ken (Esq. and Cracked) was having Chevy sign his book, I found myself standing in front of the other author, (Louise Doughty), who had no line for signing at the moment....

So, I pulled out my kindle and said, hey, I can't get you to sign it, but I did just buy your book. She hadn't seen a kindle, yet, or her book on any e-reader, so it made a nice ice-breaker for us to chat for a while.

I did, however, fail to mention that they were selling the trade version for 27.50 and I paid 9.99... Methinks her possibly higher royalty rate on e-books did not make up for the retail price difference on her end.

Maureen McGowan said...

Karen, I've already been buying way more books...

Heather, I remember you telling me you'd read at least one of my manuscripts on your palm... in the bath. LOL

Stephanie Doyle said...

Great post. Karen - you make me really really want to buy a Kindle. I never thought I would switch - but the idea of having unlimited book buying capabilities at my fingertipos... it's a reader's dream. (And nightmare because I too can imagine my budget going up.)

Also I'll be interested to see how eBooks impact HQ. With category books - they are only on the shelves for a month. Ebooks open that up to unlimited distribution. Plus - I can absolutely see myself buying an author reading her book and then saying... show me all books by same offer and bam... I've collected a backlist in seconds where usually I would have to futz around on amazon and consider shipping costs into my purchase decision.

So the Kindle is definitely oging to be my present to myself this year.

Eileen said...

I'm very tempted as well. I even found out (through Maureen) that I might be able to check out books from my library for the Kindle. Honestly, that's been my biggest stumbling blocks. I'm such a big library user, it didn't seem like it would be worth it to me. I might be rethinking that.

Stephanie Doyle said...

My other reason for going Kindle is the ability to put MY manuscript on there. The idea that I can bring around my book and read it for the purpose of finding problems - without having to lug around paper sounds awesome.

What I'm not sure I'll handle is finding problems and not being able to make notes right there on the page.

Maureen McGowan said...

Steph, I've tried for years to read through a manuscript of my own thinking only about the big picture problems and not changing as I go. And I've never been able to do it.

I'm hoping that with a kindle I might actually be able to. You can make annotations... But you can't edit per se... We'll see.

Heather Wardell said...

Maureen, 'tis true, I read one of yours (I think it was April Hillson) in the bath. Made it even better! :)

Sinead M said...

Maureen's kindle has converted me. It's fantastic, a great way to carry books when I'm travelling, and to read my critique partners manuscripts.

I'll still buy actual books though. I love how they feel, and I can't imagine reading the kindle in the bath... although Heather can, so I might have to reconsider.

MJFredrick said...

Everything Karen said, but I have a Nook. The one thing I don't like is that you can't preorder books from BN.com because they take forever putting new books up :(

I can check out ebooks from the library, though, and I don't have to buy from Amazon.

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