E Publishing: Threat or Opportunity?
By John Mason Principal, ACS Distance Education, www.acs.edu.au; http://ebook.acsedu.com March 2011
As writers, we all have a choice to make. We can either fight e-publishing; and probably suffer a big dint in our earning potential; or we can embrace it, and seek to capitalize on opportunities it offers before everyone else does.
E-books are causing a big shake-up in the publishing industry. Bookshops are failing as more people choose to buy e-books instead of printed books. E-publications are also starting to affect the sale of periodicals. They are an obvious threat to traditional print media; but at the same time, opportunities are emerging for those who are bold enough to grasp them.
- Some of the largest book distributors in Australia, NZ & the USA are in trouble
- Many leading periodicals are now offering subscriptions for electronic editions
- Over 200 new electronic “readers” were launched in late 2010 for reading e-books
- Google has launched Google Books, aiming to compete with Apple’s iBooks.
- E-books are now being loaned out by libraries
- Some of the world’s major print publishers have been developing policies to move over to e-books
The future is inevitable though.
Despite our love for a printed publication, times are changing, and there is no doubt that a significant part of the print media industry is going to be replaced by electronic publishing.
Different Types of Files
E-books may be created using normal layout software such as InDesign, then converted to any one of a number of different file formats. The two most popular file types are “e-pub” and “pdf”
· E-pub has been endorsed by the American Booksellers association; but it has a disadvantage in that it can only be read on apple iPads
· Pdf’s can be read on all types of devices including iPads, and have a better capacity to deal with illustrations
Three Ways to Read
E-books can be downloaded and read in any of the following three ways:
1. On a desk top computer or lap top
2. On an iPad
3. On a Kindle, Kobo, Barnes and Noble reader or any of over 200 other readers that use the “android” platform
Downloading a book onto a computer or laptop is no problem; but downloading directly onto an iPad or other reader is usually impossible unless dealing with books supplied by the company who supplies the particular electronic reader you are using. You can of course download to your computer and then transfer over to the reader.
The software that powers a reader or computer for an electronic publication, can be either an operating system (eg Windows) on a standard computer; or the “Android software” developed by Google; or the Apple software. The Apple software is more powerful than the others and drives the iPad, which is arguably far better than any other device (at this point in time). The Android devices are frequently cheaper, and fine for reading a black and white novel; but are frequently problematic with books that contain lots of colour illustrations.
State of Play
We have been doing a great deal of research over recent months.
Currently, big distributors like iBooks and Amazon are focusing on increasing the number of titles available as e-books; but in doing so, they are making compromises on several levels in order to get a short term advantage. Many of the e-books being published are reproductions of old titles, and a lot of gardening books are titles that may be decades old (or older) with very limited illustration.
This is how we would guess the future is likely to pan out:
- There will be a great deal of instability in the publishing industry for between 2 and 5 years.
- Some well established publishers will resist change, and as a result, will loose market share. Some will disappear, taking their authors with them. Some will adapt and emerge just as strong as ever in a new publishing industry.
- New publishing houses will emerge to fill the vacuum; particularly small to medium specialist publishers.
- Apple, Google, Amazon and other big players in the e-book market will continue to battle for a place in the “new order”; and compatibility between systems will not settle until those battles die down.
- Most books published initially are not likely to be new titles; but over time, as the e-book market gains more and more market share; there will be an impetus to publish new titles as e-books.
- The line between publishing and multimedia will blur as e-book publishers incorporate new elements into their books.
Where to Go?
A simple way forward is for writers to self publish and either set up a web site to distribute your own books; or join together to form “cooperative” distribution networks.
Ebook, e-book, ebook, or eBook?
One of the more difficult issues to be faced by any potential e-publisher is how to write the word e-book. Throughout this article we have used the hyphenated version of the word which seems to be commonly accepted in print publication. For electronic publication, however, this does not work well. As a search term ‘e-book’ fares very poorly in comparison to the other options. A search on Google Insights shows that the simple ‘ebook’is most commonly used as a search term and therefore most likely to draw potential customers to your site. It is possible that some search engines such as google are not case sensitive and thus ebook. eBook and Ebook might all be read the same way but there are varying opinions on this.