Electronic Books

BooksWhile e-book technology is racing forward, the publishers are stuck in the past. Several of them have announced that they will make new best sellers available on e-books only after the physical book has been for sale for at least several months. They think that if a hot new book comes out you will go to a store or online and buy the physical book. It may have been true when there were only a relative handful of e-books to choose from. Amazon now has more than 400,000. Barnes & Noble claims more than one million. With more than two dozen e-book formats (not a good thing) there likely are millions of e-books available. The publishers don’t understand or are in denial about how passionate e-book readers are.

Many Kindle owners are so hooked (or nooked) that they will only purchase a book if it is an e-book. Friends and family know better than to give them a “book” for a gift, although at some point receiving a real book will be very desirable (and expensive) as a collector item to cherish. The publishers say if books “deteriorate” to being sold for $9.99 (or less) as e-books that the result will be that consumers will end up with fewer new books to choose from. Their logic is that at the lower prices, publishers will have fewer resources available to assist authors and therefore there will be fewer authors. One would think that after seeing what (predictably) happened to music that publishers would embrace e-books in a major way rather than wait wait wait.

With regard to the music business, more musicians are realizing that even reviled file sharing may not be evil after all.  According to techdirt, Shakira, Norah Jones, and Nelly Furtado say “it’s ok”. The posting says that these well known singers are saying that the industry is overreacting to the issue of file sharing. Sky News talked to three top female singers and found they all recognized that it was pretty much the natural state of the market, and it helped gain more exposure. Techdirt quoted  Shakira as saying, “I like what’s going on because I feel closer to the fans and the people who appreciate the music. It’s the democratization of music in a way, and music is a gift. That’s what it should be, a gift.” And Norah Jones? “If people hear it I’m happy. I’m not going to say go and steal my album, but you know I think its great that young people who don’t have a lot of money can listen to music and be exposed to new things.

Has digital music resulted in fewer musicians? I doubt it. I don’t know how many there are — many tens to hundreds of thousands. And that’s people who get paid (though some don’t get much). According to the National Association of Music Merchants there were a total of 62 million amateur musicians in the U. S. in 1996. The advent of services such as Pandora makes it possible for “amateurs” to get their music exposed and some of them go on to be famous. Might the same thing happen when aspiring bloggers can avoid the high cost and complexity of “publishing” a book and introduce their creativity via an e’book? The old saying remains — “everybody has a book in them”. Not sure where I got that but I believe it.
e-book readers are here to stay and they will get better and better. The e-textbook is emerging also, but not fast enough for me. I hate to see my grandchildren carry tens of pounds of books in their backpacks and have to bend over to carry the weight. When they tell their children about this it will seem very strange.