I think it is safe to say, that I am to all intent and purpose, a very simple sort of person. I live what is a very normal life, or as normal as could be, and have spent the last six months of my life absorbing and watching the book trade. I would like to think that my musings here on the blog, very much reflect the thoughts of many who find the whole industry confusing, and for those who have no idea at all about the world of books, I hope this is a little more enlightening for you all.
Having now released two books in one year, and studied all the media, I have begun to form my thoughts on the world of digital books. For myself this has not been the easiest of subjects to follow, as I know very little of the technology used to create and even read these things. But as I have watched, and I have noted the long debate that has been played out in the media over the last half of this year within the publishing industry. Here in the UK, there does appear to be an entrenched view of E Books, most of what I read does very much seem to reflect a reluctance on the part of publishers, to produce the digital versions of the books until the hard cover copies have been well and truly sold to death. I have seen a few posts on the many blogs across the net, on how they fear digital will bring about the end of the world of books, and publishers to their knees.
I decided to have a look at one of these applications, and a few days ago I visited the site of Mobypocket. I do not as yet own a reading device, although I quite fancy having a play with a Sony reader, or a Kindle. I do intend to visit my local computer store soon, and see if it is possible to actually have a trial, to see how I feel about them. The Mobypocket site offered me a free download to enable myself to read a book on my laptop, so I gave it a go, and I downloaded the player. I will admit openly that my curiosity was inspired by the fact that my first book has appeared in digital format on their site, so naturally being the nosey type, I wanted to have a look at it, and to my joy, there was a free extract that I have downloaded, and had a look at.
My first real thought was, “This is not a book.” I does not feel, look or smell like a book at all, well no I hear you say, its on your lap top. I can actually curl up in a corner with the lap top, but its not the same as holding a book, although I would imagine the experience with a reader, such as Sony or Kindle could very much be the same. I love the feel of the paper and so for myself I found I was at first a little disappointed, but I will quickly add, the reading experience is actually very good, and I did find that I warmed very quickly to it. After a great deal of thought, I began to realize that in many ways if anything, the difference between the book reading experience, and the digital reading experience were actually so different, they should not really be compared, and neither should those who use them. I felt that there is a fundamental difference between the two, it is easy to see why people are attracted to both. I began to wonder if printed book readers would continue to read their preferred format, and digital readers like wise, which does begin to open up your thoughts to the point of view, that actually there may be more room than first realised for both types of reading experience. I can not imagine a time when I pull down bookshelves and replace everything with a small pocket size electronic application, but I could see a time when I use a digital application to acquire a book that has gone out of print.
Surly there is room for both, and if so, why is it the publishing industry is making such a song and dance? From my own point of view, I can now see that there are those out there who embrace all modern technology, and to be quite frank about it, if I do not digitize my books, I have no hope in hell of getting my work to them. By the same chalk, I also need to continue production of printed books, for those who like myself prefer to read a real book.
My first book has only been digital for a short time, yet I have sold a few copies, I am pleased as I get my royalty, and the publisher is obviously pleased, as he gets paid for the copy. This is where I think the real reason for the publishing industry to drag its heels lies. Most authors receive around £0.50 for every copy of a book sold, they get the same royalty for a digital copy. I know its not much, but that really is the industry standard, my friends were as shocked as I was. My first book was 209,000 words long, OK its a bigger than normal paperback, and it is a good thick read, its RRP was £15.39. Yeah I thought it was an odd price too. The fact remains that its a POD book (Print on Demand) and so yes, because it is printed in smaller quantities, the price is a little higher. I am the author so yes I think it does provide good value for money, it takes a while to read, but that is a bonus, and I can not knock the quality, it really is of the highest standard, and will last for years. I hope by now you see where this is going? I get 50p, the printer gets paid, as does the wholesaler and publisher, and at the end of the line, the seller. With every addition the price goes up, and those in the loop do rather well out of it. The industry is making money, and I might add quite a lot of it.
The digital version of my first book (Paper back £15.39) is available as a download on Mobypocket for €6.00, the EPUB format books, will be sold directly by my publisher for £4 to 5.00 when it is released later this year, I am lead to believe that the Kindle version will be somewhere around $9.99. Come on keep up, I realise I am working in different currencies, but the difference as you can clearly see is quite vast. I still make the same royalty, so in real terms I am actually getting a pay rise, as my percentage of the total price is higher, but alas proportionally everyone else who has been making quite a lot of money off HTTK, are getting less. I think the point is very much proven, digital media, is actually one hell of a lot kinder to the author than the rest.
I personally feel that the industry needs to be given a good shake up, there are many levels within the industry that do appear to be anti writer, simple submissions are the hardest things on earth to do, because no matter how well you write, if you are new, no publisher will spend money on an advertising budget for you. Follow the money always and then I think the truth reveals itself. There is one fact that is set in stone, and whether a publisher buries their head in the sand or not, it is not going to change. Digital media is here, and it is being embraced by a lot of people. Those people want books available to them, and as with all business’s it has to be supply and demand, The question I suppose the publishing industry is asking itself now is, do they supply? If they do not, I think we could see the end of traditional publishing as we know it, what I do know from years of running my own business is this much. If they do not respond soon, they may well find that a lot of retailers will have cut them out of the loop altogether, One only has to watch the rise of Amazon to see that. Like all business giants they too will have their rivals, I just wonder whether it will be publishers, or someone else.