Friday, August 27, 2010

Don't Fear the Digital

I don't own a digital book reader, I haven't downloaded any books to my cell phone, and I'm a fan of traditionally printed books (for pleasure, I read primarily nonfiction and memoirs). But digital is where it's at in our fast-paced world where people want it now or they might not buy it later.

To stay alive, the publishing industry is able and willing to accommodate the buying public. And why shouldn't it? This is good news for people like me, who count on the industry's viability for livelihood. Though many editors say it's "scary" out there right now, the scare is more about the overall state of our economy than any digital threat. Publishers stand to make a TON more money from digital sales, when you consider that paper is a publisher's biggest expense in publishing a book (except, of course, in those cases where an author's advance outstrips the production costs). Smart authors are aware of this and are negotiating accordingly.

Just this morning I read a quote by a HarperCollins VP who reported bigger e-book sales than printed book sales in the first week. (The book is Laura Lippman's I'd Know You Anywhere.) This is big, even though e-book sales overall account for only 8% of total revenue. The exec attributed it to a good review, and the ability of the e-reading public to buy the book instantly after reading that favorable review.

The downside, of course, is that instant availability only contributes to the hurry-up nature of the industry, making pre-release hype all the more important to sales. In only a couple weeks, printed books will be remaindered. But with the relatively low cost of producing an e-book, more e-titles can remain permanently backlisted--a boon for everyone.


Anonymous said...

I am embracing the digital. Recently downloaded my first e-book, now I am hooked. Requesting a digital reader for my birthday or Christmas. Certain books I still think need to be read the old fashioned way.. a good romance for example. Something about using some of your senses heightens the experience. The touch of paper the smell of a new book . LOL

Melanie Gold said...

After I became a mother I became a clutterbug. So there's something nice about having a lot of books condensed into a small space. At the same time, my office would look bereft without my wall o' books.

I would say I'm really torn on this one, but I don't think we readers have to choose. We can enjoy both!