Sunday, December 2, 2012

Investigation: Digital Books and eReaders

    As we talked about in class last week, digitization is revolutionizing the media industry.  Now, with the availability of digital books, almost anyone can call themselves an "author", just as youtube stars can call themselves "actors."  There are numerous types of these digital books and eReaders, but just to name a few, there are Kindles, Palms, Nooks, iBooks, and you can even download these texts to iPads.  We now know that these are available, but what is it that makes them revolutionary?  PublishGreen gives a perfect analogy about the differences between Ebooks and print books.  In their post, they compare printed books to a rock.  A rock cannot be physically altered unless you physically damage it yourself.  The same goes for books, you cannot change any physical aspect of the book without damaging it.  On the other hand, they compare Ebooks to clay.  Clay is very malleable and can be changed into many different things without being physically damaged.  Readers can make many different adjustments to these Ebooks.  They can change font size, line spacing, and can even change the page margin.  The comparison of printed books being like that of a rock and Ebooks like clay give us a perfect example as to why these Ebooks have revolutionized the publishing industry.
    When these digital books first came out of production, it was somewhat alarming to see someone reading a book from an electronic device instead of a printed copy.  However, it seems as if the tide has turned.  It is now becoming more common to see a person reading from a digital book.  One example of this shift is present in most colleges now.  In order to save paper, a lot of professors will have a copy of the textbook available to buy and download to a digital book.  According to an article in the Huffington Post, eBooks are more popular than ever before.  "In November 2010, 6% of Americans reported owning an e-reader; the figure is now 19%, with females aged 30-49 years old the most represented group."

    With the creation of these new digital books, the publishing industry is now facing some major changes.  The billion-dollar question companies within this industry are facing is whether or not they should commit more money towards e-book publishing while cutting back on printed publishing, or just keep it the way they have been doing it.  According to a Forbes article on the growth of e-books, "A whole ecosystem of companies have cropped up around the $2 billion in revenues that e-books generated in 2011."  Two examples of large companies who converted to e-book publishing are Aptara and Innodata.  A new e-book seller called OnlyIndie starts every book that it sells at $0 just so that book can build up an audience.  They raise money to be able to fund this approach.  It is obvious that major publishing companies are starting to make  a change in which they commit more effort toward e-book publishing.  It is almost impossible for print-only publishing companies to be able to compete with companies who are now able to do both.

    While the rise of e-books are quite possibly hurting publishing industries, I believe they are helping out the less-known authors.  There are different types of technology such as Red Staple that offer online tools for individuals to upload their e-books by themselves without having to pay a publishing company.  There is an excellent article in USA Today that shows the difference between self-publishing a book and actually going through a company to get your book published and printed.  They give an example of an author by the name of Scott Nicholson who does it all by himself.  "He handles the entire process himself, from downloading stock photos at $4 dollars a pop and making covers on Gimp, to converting the manuscripts into formats compatible for the e-readers."  The article gives an example of a person who used a publishing company to do everything for him.  "He pays $250 dollars to a local service to format the book, $300 to a copy editor, and $400 to an artist to make covers."  For a low-budget author who is just starting up, a DIY method through e-books such as the way Scott Nicholson does it greatly benefits authors and gives them the ability to get their book on the market.

    Are eBook readers the death of bookstores?  Well, if you look at the numbers, it is definitely not helping bookstores.  According to an article in a Missouri news company, this is true.  "In 2011, first quarter adult paperback sales totaled $335 million.  In the same period this year, adult paperback sales totaled $229.8 million, a loss of 10.5%.  Compare that with an increase of 28.1 percent for eBooks in that same stretch of time, with them bringing in $220.4 million in 2011 and $282.3 million in 2012."  Ebooks are starting to catch up fast and hurting local bookstores along the way.


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