Ebooks and the Future

I’ve been thinking (quick, hide the children!) about the state of publishing and the rise of ebooks a lot lately. I blame Dave Freer and Sarah Hoyt, personally, for my constant watching of the industry. Yes, I am a published author. Yes, my book is out in both print and e-format. But of the two, care to take a guess as to which I’m thrilled about the sales numbers? I’ll give you a hint: no trees were harmed in the making of this version.

I remember back in 2004, when I was talking to this crazy guy who was convinced that the world was going to route of DRM-free ebooks. He was adamant that anyone who tried to follow the path of the RIAA and make the customer the enemy was going to crash and fall. I wasn’t sure, primarily because I was just a fan of SF and not yet a writer. I was actually drawing up an outline for an article about his radical ideas and how he believed that they would change the face of the publishing industry. I was unconvinced but I was a semi-pro; I knew how to feign interest of his rantings while picking through to get the important bits.

But a funny thing happened… after listening to him break it down into sales numbers, cost vs traditional publishing, and whipped out proof that his model was working, I started to see the light. You see, I started to believe. And that was my first baby step into the publishing industry.

Because the ebook model is successful, as evidenced by this past winter. Ebook sales are growing at a faster rate and, as such, publishers are becoming more accommodating to the new market. Nooks and Kindles are literally flying off the shelves, and Apple’s new iPad is nothing more than an ereader jacked up on ‘roids. And with most publishers following the DRM-free methodology, ebook sales should continue to rise as more people get comfortable with the expanding technology.

-side note: I saw my book on an iPad the other day. And I thought the book looked gorgeous in my hands. If you have an iPad, go take a look at my book cover. It really pops on an iPad.

But where does this leave the print industry? Many people (including myself) love the feel and smell of a new book. Yeah, we’re weird like that, but there’s something special about seeing a bookshelf loaded with books, something cozy about a library in a house. Is there a balance. Can they coexist?

I believe so, if the publisher pays attention and balances the two well. But the proof remains to be seen. I, for one, am excited about the possibility that rising sales will influence an industry I am just starting to get my feet wet in. I think I got in at just the right time.

Time will only tell, though, if I’m right.

Oh, that publisher who turned me back to the light? The now-deceased Jim Baen, founder and editor of the highly successful Baen Books.

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