Although the info immediately below is about past articles we’ve written, we thought you might be interested in these 2 updates.
1) Amazon’s Cloud Reader Software: Cloud computing to the rescue. This HTML 5 reader was initially launched with the iPad/Apple market in mind. Very interesting move by Amazon. Read all about it here.
2) Amazon Publishing: Amazon is busy staffing its new publishing arm, which has existing publishers and brick-and-mortar booksellers a bit concerned despite mainstream distribution assurances from Amazon. Read all about it here.
As with all the other part of the book industry that we’ve discussed over the past few weeks, authors have benefited from and experienced liabilities with the advent of e-books and e-readers. This article is going to address some of the effects on fiction authors.
Mainstream Authors: There is no argument that readers read even more when they own an e-reader for a number of reasons that we’ve discussed in previous weeks’ articles. Mainstream fiction authors have benefited from this trend by selling more books both when a new hardcover book is released and when paperbacks are released.
Although e-book prices for a lot of new hardcover novels have been creeping up, they still remain on average at least $10 lower than hardcover novels. That means readers who used to wait up to an additional year for the latest novel to be released as a paperback now feel the price justifies buying much earlier and at a higher price point.
The paperback benefit to authors is more complex. In some instances, readers are buying paperback e-books that had fallen out of print and are being re-released so they get to discover whole new series to read. On the flip side of that coin, more are sold because e-books are staying “in print” much longer, if not indefinitely. In addition, because publishers are releasing most paperback novels much earlier than previously, that faster release date appears to spur paperback e-book sales to new heights. Last but not least, because paperback e-book prices are in some instances fairly low, readers who might have waited to purchase paperbacks at a used bookstore now feel justified in purchasing e-books at the lower price just so they don’t have to wait to read a much anticipated novel.
Indie Authors: Self-publishing has gotten a bad reputation over the years but there was always an example of some author who got a lucrative mainstream publishing contract because their self-published novel or non-fiction book did so well. The Internet and e-books have changed that for indie authors and many more authors are going this route.
It is incredibly easy for someone to self-publish these days. At times it seems like everyone is doing it. The number of web sites that solicit people wanting to self-publish has exploded in the last few years, with the advent of e-readers. Amazon has what looks like an entire division set up to work with indie authors who want to self-publish novels, non-fiction, novellas or short stories through its web site. Some indie authors’ books do well and some don’t; however, e-books and e-readers have been a boon to indie authors by providing readily available access to readers all over the world and by making the process so easy. What a lot of indie authors don’t understand is that, just as with self-publishing before e-readers and e-books, getting the book out into the world is just the beginning of what it takes to make a successful novel.
The Atlantic’s online site, Atlantic Wire, had an article just last week in which an established author talked about his experiment with self-publishing e-books. It’s a very interesting article, especially for people who may be considering self-publishing. Click here to read that article.
In talking about the liabilities involved with e-books and e-readers, most comments will be about mainstream authors; however, they also apply to indie authors. This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means.
Piracy: Not the yo-ho-ho, walk the plank variety of olden days but the 21st century variety. E-book piracy is a huge issue for authors as well as publishers. I’m on Twitter with a number of established authors, who often discuss battling scammers who pirate their novels. After working at two of the largest search engines, I know Internet piracy is a long-standing issue which no one has been able to successfully stop altogether. My soapbox – Any piracy is despicable; however, movie piracy, music piracy, visual arts piracy, and literary piracy are particularly despicable to me. There are two groups of people who suffer the most from these pirate attacks. The first group is the artists of these various disciplines, who make the least to begin with. The second group is the rest of us because prices go up to help pay for battling piracy and to replace revenue lost to pirates. I sincerely hope someone can put a stop to it or at least make it much more difficult!
Availability: A few publishers amazingly enough still resist allowing certain novels to be published as e-books in addition to hard copy books, although luckily that practice is rapidly dying out. Depending on the author’s publishing contract, the author may or may not have the right to self-publish those books as e-books. More common now is the publisher who delays the availability of e-books until the hardcover has been out for a set period or who increases the e-book price (for a certain time period following publication) to try to maximize hardcover novel purchases. It has also become more common to see e-book prices for new paperback releases equal or even exceed those of the paperback counterparts. That ridiculous and counterproductive practice requires careful comparison shopping on the reader’s part.
E-Reader Technical Limitations: One of the biggest issues in the past with e-readers was their inability to convey b&w illustrations in a way that was satisfying (or sometimes legible in the case of maps). With the advent of the Color Nook and the iPad, with their vibrant color capabilities, those considerations don’t exist any longer. Still, most people don’t possess e-readers which can convey satisfactory b&w illustrations, much less color. That means authors whose books depend on color illustrations are at a distinct disadvantage in the e-book market until color e-readers become more economical for buyers and a greater selection of color e-readers becomes available (which will drive prices down).
E-Book Production Inferiority: Maybe this is just a personal pet peeve but over the last 10-15 years, I’ve noticed degradation in the production quality of some hard copy novels, particularly paperbacks, with more proofreading errors. As an FYI: Books go through copy editing and proofreading during pre-publication and then they go through proofreading again during the mechanical production phase. That trend has mushroomed with e-book production. I get so frustrated at times when I’m reading e-books that I want to take a red pen to my Kindle. What does this have to do with authors? When we’re reading a book, any factual, grammatical or spelling errors we notice in that book generally get attributed to the author – not the publisher or the e-reader company. That’s probably not a huge detriment but it’s still a detriment.
Royalty Contracts: I believe that author royalties could be adversely affected by e-books because authors get a royalty percentage. Whether that is true would depend on the contract royalty distribution language; however, if the author’s royalty percentage is the same for all forms of publication then the author could be at a liability if more e-books are sold at a lower price vs. more hard-copy books at a higher price. The offset to that liability would be if enough e-books are sold to make up for the difference in price or exceed the difference.
As with every other book industry aspect we’ve discussed in our series, the picture for authors is a mixed bag. From discussions I’ve read and heard among authors, I believe the overall picture is a good one for fiction authors. It will be interesting to see how the trend for authors develops over the coming months and years as the e-reader and e-book industry evolves.
As a side note, this is the last article in this Monday series. I decided to shelve the Environmental Impact article because I couldn’t find enough viable research information to make any kind of worthwhile article.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. I welcome comments on this article or any of the past articles, or the series as a whole. I also welcome any suggestions for future issues you’d like to see addressed here.
Past Articles in the Series (Click on the titles to read them):
Intro and E-Reader Comparison
Monday, July 11
E-Books vs. Hard-Copy Books
Monday, July 18
Effect on Brick-and-Mortar Booksellers
Monday, July 25
Effect on Libraries
Monday, August 1
Effect on Publishers
Monday, August 8