Like a lot of writers, I’ve been thinking about e-books lately. After all, now that Oprah has endorsed Amazon’s Kindle, it’s only a matter of time until we all have Kindles, or other electronic devices, and the days of old-fashioned books are gone for good, right? Well, I wouldn’t write the obituary for the book just yet, but the fact is that love ’em or hate ’em, e-books are here to stay.
As disclosure, I don’t own an e-reader (though I suspect I’m going to be getting one as a gift shortly), but I’ve used my friends’, and there’s no doubting the convenience, portability, and ease of use of the devices. While I love books myself and I don’t think that anything can ever replace the experience of old-fashioned reading -the feel of a book in your hands, the smell of the paper, etcetera-I think it’s indisputable that e-books are here to stay. Lately, I’ve heard many writers bash e-books, basically claiming that nothing will ever replace the book and predicting that the e-book will eventually be rejected and/or disappear. I think this is a mistake; writers should embrace the technology and adapt to it, rather than fear it.
I see e-books as a major opportunity. In the future, writers will have more control of the marketing of their books and authors’ websites and other sites, such as my My Space and Facebook pages, could generate significant sales. Now, when authors market their books online, they have to hope that readers either buy their books at an online store, or go to a bookstore to purchase them. But if everyone in the world had e-readers, writers could gain sales instantly. I think e-books, potentially, can take some of the marketing control away from publishers, and empower authors.
In addition to having a dramatic effect on the marketing of books, I think e-books will ultimately change the way books are written. Just as the invention of the novel itself led to new types of storytelling, as e-books compete for our attention with other portable devices, such as iPods, writing itself will change. Stories will have to become more fast-paced and visceral to keep readers engaged. Series books will become more prevalent because the goal will be to get readers to immediately download other books by the author. For this reason, I think stories with big cliffhanger endings will become more common.
I don’t think books will ever disappear completely. I don’t even see why books and e-books can’t co-exist, or why e-books are necessarily a threat to bookstores. Why can’t patrons buy a book in a store and receive a code to download the e-version of the book? That way, they can read the book at home and the e-book when they travel. After all, electronic music has become hugely popular, but people still buy CD’s.
For the foreseeable future the obituary of the book is premature. But I also think it’s inevitable that e-books will gain a large percentage of the book market, and that there will be a major opportunity for the authors who want to seize it.
But what do you think about all of this? Am I way off base and will the e-book go the way of the 8 track tape player? Do you plan to buy an e-reader or read an e-book in the coming year or do you plan to stick with books for the long haul?
Bio: JASON STARR is the Barry and Anthony Award-winning nine crime novels which have been published in ten languages. His latest thriller from St. Martin’s Press, THE FOLLOWER, is now on-sale in a new mass market paperback edition. Visit www.jasonstarr.com and sign up for Jason Starr’s newsletter for a chance to win a 50-dollar Amazon gift certificate, and other exciting prizes. Newsletter subscribers will also be eligible to win free advance copies of Jason Starr’s next thriller PANIC ATTACK, which will be on-sale in August, 2009.