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Old 03-14-2012, 09:31 AM   #1
Justin Nemo
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Ebook or Pbook?

So what is the future of the written word? The impression I get reading through writer's forums is that “You just aint made it until you're in paper”. Writers still put a lot of emphasis on getting a publishing deal and getting your book in print. Only then do they consider that they have made it.

Is this really how we should be thinking in the 21st century. Isn't paper dead?
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Old 03-14-2012, 10:20 AM   #2
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My intention when I started my publishing company last year was to digitize material and make it available in eBook formats. I probably would have petered out by now if I had stuck to that plan.

As a micro-publisher, there is still a lot to be said for just having something to hold. Publishing in paper format also typically requires--and shows off--a more varied skill-set than publishing in eBook formats.

My opinion is that any publishers doing one should also do the other. There's no reason to limit availability when you already have the digital material to work with and when the investment is nonexistent or nominal.

I've done 18 books since I started my company and I have to say that the print editions sell just as well as the ebooks do. I doubt that every print sale would have converted to an eBook sale if the print edition did not exist.
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Old 03-14-2012, 10:25 AM   #3
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Publishing in paper format also typically requires--and shows off--a more varied skill-set than publishing in eBook formats.
Could you clarify that for me?
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Old 03-14-2012, 11:40 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Nemo View Post
So what is the future of the written word? The impression I get reading through writer's forums is that “You just aint made it until you're in paper”. Writers still put a lot of emphasis on getting a publishing deal and getting your book in print. Only then do they consider that they have made it.

Is this really how we should be thinking in the 21st century. Isn't paper dead?
A good point well made. I almost never read pBooks any more (present On Writing by Stephen King excepted), but as an author I will only feel like I've really made it if I see a physical book on the local bookshop's shelves.

Hypocritical, or is it just that the vast readership is still in pBooks and therefore more desirable? And of course there is something special about holding the physical manifestation of all your hard work in your hands.
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Old 03-14-2012, 11:50 AM   #5
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According to Gary Frost, the University of Iowa's book conservation specialist, “The pbook (the 'physical book' as opposed to the ebook) will eventually become an object of curiosity to be looked at in a glass case. “ What a sobering thought.
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Old 03-14-2012, 12:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Nemo View Post
According to Gary Frost, the University of Iowa's book conservation specialist, “The pbook (the 'physical book' as opposed to the ebook) will eventually become an object of curiosity to be looked at in a glass case. “ What a sobering thought.
Not sobering... sensible.

Print has limits that digital documents do not. Though there is still a lot of romantic attachment to print, eventually, its utility, its flexibility, its storage practicality and its instantaneous communications reality will overcome its paper roots, and paper will become a true anachronism in literature, reserved for special production events and gifts.

When I considered the possibilities of print and vanity publishing, I decided right off that I didn't want to be a part of the ecologically damaging process of pulping trees for book fodder. I've never regretted that. And if it means that it takes longer for consumers to accept me as a legitimate writer, then so be it.

As time has gone by, the impression that a writer isn't a "real" writer unless they are in print has already been impacted by paperbacks, then by vanity presses; ebooks are continuing the eroding of the "legitimacy" of paper, especially as more established writers are produced digitally. Eventually, it will mean nothing other than the fact that the writer or publisher was willing to spend more money and knock down some trees to show off their product... and that will mean less and less to those entering the reading world in the digital age.
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Old 03-14-2012, 12:47 PM   #7
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Paper definitely confers a certain "reality" or status on a writer. In some minds you're not really published unless your book is out in paper. Still, the future belongs to the ebook. I have no doubt about that at all.
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Old 03-14-2012, 01:12 PM   #8
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Could you clarify that for me?
I'll preface by saying I'm a one-stop-shop and probably not representative of most independent publishers.

When I publish for print a good chunk of my time is spent on typesetting and layout. These typically play no role in eBook publishing (although I did spend a couple weeks on ebook typesetting for a book of poetry). Cover design and creation also require more work for print as you will be doing a print-quality front/back/spine.

That being said, I've also had to acquire significant coding skill to make my eBooks function the way I want--especially for Kindle. But as a former blank-slate person, self-taught in the skills required to publish a book in both eBook and print format, I can say the print side required a lot more of me than the eBook side.

eBooks will clearly replace printed material in time, though. There is absolutely no feature of a print book that an eBook cannot do better and there is no way print books can replicate the multitudes of features offered by digital content. It's no competition.

New books will eventually be a rarity but I suspect that print publishing will still always exist through Print-on-Demand offerings. The days of monster print-runs are numbered though.
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Old 03-14-2012, 01:31 PM   #9
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It does seem likely the future belongs to the e-book but we're extrapolating a roughly twenty year phenomenon against something with thousands of years of history. It is too early to call the p-book dead.

Put an Epub file on a USB memory stick and put it into a time capsule. Twenty or thirty years from now I will bet your PC (whatever form THAT takes, lol) will not read either that media (USB port, what's that?) or the file itself. And that is even with no DRM on that file! Backward compatibility has already bitten many of us in the field of digital information. There are NOT always adequate translators and hardware. Who do you know who has an 8" floppy drive today? Heck, the list of people with 3.5" floppy drives or, say, SCSI ports is dwindling.

I'd say the p-book has a strong heartbeat at least until most of the world settles on one e-book format AND that format shows signs of stability (only minor revisions).
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Old 03-14-2012, 01:49 PM   #10
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Put an Epub file on a USB memory stick and put it into a time capsule. Twenty or thirty years from now I will bet your PC (whatever form THAT takes, lol) will not read either that media (USB port, what's that?) or the file itself. And that is even with no DRM on that file! Backward compatibility has already bitten many of us in the field of digital information. There are NOT always adequate translators and hardware. Who do you know who has an 8" floppy drive today? Heck, the list of people with 3.5" floppy drives or, say, SCSI ports is dwindling.
It's true that the average PC user does not maintain backwards-compatible file support systems, and this is something people must learn to accommodate, or lose their files. On the other hand, the same can be said about any media: Maintain it properly, or it will die off. Most people assume somebody else is on the job, so they don't need to worry about it. This is not a new problem, and some small effort on your part can preserve those files.

At the same time, scholars are very aware of this, and are actively maintaining backwards-compatible systems that can rescue old HW and SW formats. And with hardware adapters and cloud-based backup systems, about the only reason to lose files is outright negligence.
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Old 03-14-2012, 06:11 PM   #11
Justin Nemo
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I don't think the media is the problem. Talking as someone who has converted his family movies from Betamax to VHS and then to DVD and avi and will probably convert to whatever the next format is, the media isn't as important as the content. Microsoft has invested millions into converting out of print books and that's something else you'll probably never hear again. Do you really think it'll be, “sorry sir that book is out of format”?
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Old 03-14-2012, 06:23 PM   #12
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Steve, p-books are proven to endure hundreds of years. That is the "other media" e-books are competing with and it is proven to be, lol, backward compatible. Shakespeare's lingo may look a bit peculiar but I still enjoy Macbeth.

I admit p-books are weak against fire, flood, and theft (the only real reason we're digitizing old engineering drawings at work). And I do see e-books as the future, just not as swift to take over as some predict.
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Old 03-14-2012, 07:23 PM   #13
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Real books still account for 80% of the market, I can't see them going anywhere within our lifetimes. Not even if Amazon started giving the ebook readers away free. Maybe in another generation, assuming there is anyone left by then who still reads books.

I don't see having your stories printed into real books as a prestige thing, just a way of reaching the people you wouldn't reach with an ebook.
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Old 03-15-2012, 12:32 AM   #14
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Is this really how we should be thinking in the 21st century. Isn't paper dead?
That's a very limited paradigm at the very least, colonialist at worst.

I'm from the Philippines, and while I'm part of an eBook publishing company, most of the people here still read paper books.

And that's going to be the case for a lot of countries outside of the US and the UK.

(We're growing the eBook business here, but it's far from dominant, nor do we believe that the demise of print will herald the rise of eBooks.)

Just look at the policies behind a lot of the major eBook vendors. Barnes & Noble won't sell to readers outside of the US. Apple's iTunes has expanded to a few European countries but aside from that, same case as Barnes & Noble. Amazon charges $2.00, even if we're not using Whispersync to get our eBooks.

Some vendors even make it difficult to check your eBooks, unless you're from the US: http://blog.ksaugustin.com/2011/10/0...e-third-world/

It also doesn't take into consideration realities other countries face such as:

1) availability of eBook readers
2) affordability of eBook readers
3) ability to conduct electronic transactions (i.e. not everyone has a credit card, and the process is significantly more difficult in various countries compared to the US)
4) language supported by eBook readers, and vendors

Which isn't to say print doesn't have its limitations--I prefer having access to both the eBooks and print--but a lot of these discussions tends to be US-centric and tend to ignore the plight of others.
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Old 03-15-2012, 03:27 AM   #15
Justin Nemo
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I'm not sure where colonialism comes into it, my country never colonised the Philippines, so I'll take that as a broad based insult.

I asked a general not a specific question. You gave an answer which is particular to your set of circumstances. I'm sure that someone from Nepal would have another opinion. That's why it's called a conversation, well at least that's what they taught me in the colonies.

I live part of the year in France, which I'm sure you'll agree is quite a developed nation, but Ebook sales in 2011 rose only by half of one percent!

As I said before, my question is a general one and not aimed at minorities or majorities.
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