Why E-Books Will Modify The Way Books Are Published

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The publishing world is about to change dramatically – thanks to the rapid growth in the popularity of both e-book readers and e-books. Driven by the increased popularity of e-book readers – such as the Amazon Kindle for example – e-books have very quickly become accepted by the general public. It would be very easy to think of them as just another way to deliver written content. However, they may well be the biggest change to reading since the invention of the printing press.

That may sound somewhat melodramatic – but it’s clear that e-books radically modify the conventional printing cycle. In general, publishers release hardback editions followed, normally a few months to a year later, by the paperback version. It seems obvious that there is no valid reason why the e-book edition wouldn’t be published at the same time as the hardback.

As e-books don’t use any paper, bindings or chemicals, and since they don’t require to be shipped – their selling price should be less than a conventional physical book. That means that the e-book edition can be on sale at a lower price at the same time as the hardback version. That could make a big dent in the profits of the major publishing firms – especially when you take the fact that e-book reader owners are likely to be fairly heavy readers into consideration.

Some fairly heated discussions have already taken place between Amazon – who planned to price all e-books at $ 9.99 or less – and the larger publishers. At one point, all books by McMillan were withdrawn from the Amazon website. Whilst things have quietened down a little for the – it appears highly probable that e-book prices will fall further in future.

However, there are clearly some very positive aspects for the major publishing houses. Clearly they will have smaller costs when selling e-books, so they should be able to make a profit. They will also have new and alternative strategies for the promotion of books.

The Amazon library of Kindle books is the most extensive available on the web at this time. They have more than 700,000 titles to choose from – and there are a further 1.8 million out of copyright books which can be downloaded free from Amazon’s website. The large majority of these were published pre-1923, but there are other examples of more modern books which can be downloaded for free.

Publishers offering modern, sometimes recently published, books for free are becoming more common. Often this will be done for a relatively brief period – a couple of weeks or so. It gives them the opportunity to showcase a new author or title and the increased number of downloads will help the book to rise up the best sellers list. Once it has risen up the rankings, publishers may decide to benefit from the added exposure and charge for it. You might also see the first in a series being offered for free. The idea is clearly that readers enjoy the opening title and then go on to buy further titles in the series.

No doubt both of these promotional methods could have been employed with conventional books. However, it would be a lot more expensive, and therefore a more risky, undertaking. E-books are here to stay. There will be some publishers who will attempt to maintain their profits by using somewhat restrictive measures. It will be the ones that adapt to the new digital publishing landscape by offering value to both readers and authors who survive.


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