Electronic Publishing in the Digital Age

When I first started writing, I pursued traditional methodologies for getting published.  Grosso modo, these are:  Write a quality book that is between eighty and one hundred thousand words long to satisfy market requirements, edit it, have friends read it, religiously go through Writer’s Market looking for select publishers, write a query letter and wait between one and three months for a reply.  However, as an author once said, Why should I wait for the acceptance of my book when the book could already be published with me on a beach drinking tequila?  This leads to several questions:  Is it reasonable to expect that writers wait between one and three months for a response?  Why have publishers framed this expectation and do they have the right to monopolize writers’ time?  After all, time is a precious commodity of which we appear to have less and less.

The definition of publishing has changed

My experience with Amazon and Facebook(R) has shown me that the definition of publishing has changed.  Writers don’t have to wait between one and three months or more to determine the value of their writings.  Publication can happen sooner.

What is publication?

According to the Penguin Dictionary (Robert Allen, consultant ed.), publication is ‘the act or process of publishing’ and to publish is to ‘produce (a book…) or release (it) for sale or distribution to the public.’

With the advent of social media and self-publishing methodologies such as Amazon, the very meaning of what publication is and who controls the distribution process have forever changed.

Why is it advantageous to publish electronic books as opposed to print books?

Control

The first advantage is that writers can take control of the process.  On the surface, this may appear marvelous.  You may think, I can say whatever I want, click ‘post’ and the world will embrace me.  Not so fast pussycat.  Just because we have the means to bypass traditional book publishers and market our personal brand doesn’t mean that we can produce poor writing and win.  In fact, the freedom afforded by the likes of Facebook(R) and Amazon should make us doubly careful about what we say and how we say it.  Controlling the distribution process doesn’t equate with producing quality products.  This is because whether we produce electronic or print titles, the old adage, ‘content is king,’ still applies.  And I would add quality content.

Practicality

‘There are undoubtable benefits to being able to take entire libraries with you when travelling [including] the ability to access information at any time, and search that information quickly….(Bailey, Sarah. ‘Digital Rights Management in Publishing.’ reallybluebooks.com/downloads/Digital-Rights-Management-Essay.pdf, 20 June, 2011, p. 6)  I can’t take my physical library of books with me when traveling; but I can have access to all of my e-books at any time and in any place.

Durability

Unlike traditional, print books, e-books cannot degrade.  Their digital as opposed to analog composition is virtually everlasting.

Instant access

Many people own electronic reading tablets such as Kindle.  For them, ordering an e-book online gives them virtually instant access to the product.  Amazon, for example, offers free, wireless delivery in about two minutes.  This is a far cry from getting in your car, driving to the bookstore, locating the book, purchasing it, driving home and starting to read it.  Even if you order a print book online, you’ll have to wait several days to a week for delivery, depending.

Reduced cost

Offering my readers electronic versions of my books enables them to get the same value (if not higher) at a reduced cost.  For example, one of my books is 385 pages long with 84 color illustrations.  It sells for $19.19 in print (black & white) versus $0.99 on Amazon (color).  This means that should readers desire to hold a print version of my book in their hands, they’ll have to pay roughly twenty times more without getting the full effect since my illustrations won’t be in color!

With the advent of cloud computing, big data and novel ideas about sharing and storing data, we are living the ‘communication revolution.’  In order to maximize our potential–publishing our works sooner than what is traditionally accepted, developing and marketing our personal brand without necessarily being pressured by publishers, and offering our quality products at an affordable price and in a durable manner–today’s writers should seriously consider publishing their titles electronically.

ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING IN THE DIGITAL AGE Copyright © 2013 Luba Rascheff

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