Tag Archives: Digital Publishing

Less people are reading e-books than expected

E-Books Or Paper Books

My wife and I constantly discourage our daughter from using gadgets such as her iPad or our mobile phones, especially for reading books. We prefer that she reads paper books.

On my blog I have written multiple times in favour of e-books and I myself am a great fan of e-books. Almost all the books that I read these days are either on my Kindle reader or my Android tablet.

I don’t know if it is real or rumour, Steve Jobs, when he was alive, didn’t allow his kids to use either the iPad or the iPhone. Again, I don’t know if it is real or rumour, most of the CEOs (and people in similar positions) send their kids to schools with minimal use of computers. Somewhere, somehow they understand, the conventional way of acquiring knowledge and facilitating intellectual growth is much more effective than technology-supported. Besides, there are no comprehensive studies regarding how these gadgets affect our minds when we use them on an ongoing basis. But that’s another issue.

Just like any other technology, whenever new gadgets hit the market, and if that gadget is good like your average e-book reader, there is a rush to buy it. People want to be seen whether it. People want to experience it. It is a novelty.

Besides, people like me want to know how this particular gadget improves the overall experience as well as make achieving a particular task more effective. My primary support for e-books and e-book readers is that it is extremely convenient for me to read books. Books come in different textures. Some books are very thick. Some are very thin. Some you can open easily. Some are hard to open. Then, I can just carry a single book with me if I’m going somewhere on my wheelchair.

On my Kindle reader or on my tablet, there is no such limit. There must be hundreds of books on my Kindle reader. When a carry the device, I carry the entire gamut of my collection with me. What happens in case I lose my Kindle reader or my tablet? No worries; all my books are saved in the cloud and they will be there just like they are once I log into my account from another device.

Recently someone commented on Twitter (I have forgotten the name of the person) that with e-readers, it is just convenience and the act of reading and nothing else. There is no experience. There is no environment. There is no feel. I agree. The sort of feeling that you get while reading a paper book you don’t get while reading an e-book. It’s still like using a gadget or a toy. But personally for me, the advantages outweigh the small sentimental snags that come with e-books.

This article states that the sale of e-readers is drastically reducing. Less and less people are purchasing e-readers these days and the dwindling sales of paper books seem to be picking up. There was a time when people had started thinking the time of paper books has gone. Now they think it is coming back. Conventional publishers have something to cheer for. The article quotes an expert:

Now, there are signs that some e-book adopters are returning to print, or becoming hybrid readers, who juggle devices and paper. E-book sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of this year, according to the Association of American Publishers, which collects data from nearly 1,200 publishers. Digital books accounted last year for around 20 percent of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago.

E-books’ declining popularity may signal that publishing, while not immune to technological upheaval, will weather the tidal wave of digital technology better than other forms of media, like music and television.

I think it is not right to compare music and television industry with book reading. Book reading has been here for centuries whereas television and music industry in its current form has just been here for a few decades. Books are more personal. Reading a book is normally a personal activity unless it is being read in a group or in front of kids. So other trends may come and go, I think books are going to remain in demand in one form or another.

Why is it happening? If e-book readers are so convenient, why don’t people enjoy reading books on the e-readers rather than paper books? One reason can be that there wasn’t a shift anyway. People wanted to try out a new technology. It happens whenever a new technology or trend is introduced into the market. Everybody wants to buy it (those who can). People want to be seen with new gadgets. Being seen with the latest gadget becomes a status symbol. But when everybody seems to be using it, the interest begins to ebb and people begin to think that well, it’s no big deal flaunting a Kindle reader.

Another reason is that people are getting wary of constantly using gadgets. While I’m constantly discouraging my daughter from using her iPad, how can I sit in front of her using my Kindle reader even if it is being used merely to read a book and not to browse the Internet or watch videos? Although she knows that nothing much can be done with a Kindle reader aside from reading books and hence, it is different from other gadgets, I sometimes sit in front of her with my paper book just to let her know that reading paper books is a normal activity.

There is a global shift of attitude regarding adaptation of technology; whenever possible, people try to distance themselves from the gadgets they have so gotten used to having all the time. So a move away from e-readers and towards paper books might not much have to do with people’s perception towards e-readers, but their general disenchantment with technology overdose.

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Are digital books changing the way authors write?

Digital Books

A very balanced take on the way digital books are shaping the way books are read and written, in this article. For more than three years now I have been reading digital books and I read paper books only when digital books are unavailable (which rarely is the case these days). Initially I used to read e-books (even when I purchased them from Amazon in Kindle format) on my Samsung tab that was quite outdated. Seeing how much I read my wife motivated me to purchase the Kindle reader.

I read digital books more for the convenience and less for the supposedly positive impact that they have on the environment. The article above talks about how youngsters these days use the same device to read books as well is interact on social media and social networking websites and also use the same device for playing video games, music and movies. This sort of, takes away the exclusivity book reading demands. Book reading is supposed to create a totally different world, segregated from your surroundings. Is this possible with digital books with so much distraction going around? And how does it impact the way writers write, in order to capture as much attention as possible?

Any word in an ebook can invoke its own dictionary definition, simply by selecting it. If a passage in an ebook strikes you as cogent, beautiful or profound you can bet – once you’ve switched the highlight-sharing function on – hundreds of other people have already highlighted it. It’s a short hop from realising that to paying special attention to the highlighted bits – not out of laziness but as a wise learning strategy.

Where I see the problem is that books can be read in almost all the devices. Once you have purchased the Kindle book, for example, you can read it on a tablet, on an iPad, on a phone, on a computer and on a laptop and basically every device that has an operating system and the ability to connect to the Internet. In terms of sales, it must have been profitable for the publishers (as I mentioned above, I had started purchasing Kindle books much before I actually purchased the Kindle reader). But, books should be read on a device that only makes you read books. There should be no distraction. In fact I’m sure, this is how gadgets like Kindle reader were born – to create a digital space where only books are the consumption. There is no social networking. There are no phone calls. There is no instant messaging. There is no notification area. There are no message bubbles. Just pages and pages of the book you’re reading.

Every medium changes the way literature is written and read. This has been going on since the time immemorial. Even before digital books, the way people wrote and read was constantly changing. Just see the way writers like Dickens and Dostoevsky wrote and the way contemporary writers write. Writing styles change. Reading patterns change. This is an ongoing process. Instead of resisting it, we should embrace it, both as writers and as readers.

Having said that, I would insist that there must be separate devices for reading books, just for reading books.

Digital publishing doesn’t mean easy success

Recently in a blog post titled “Why digital publishing is the future” I agreed with writers and authors who follow the conventional publishing path that it is much more difficult to get published, and then be successful when you get your book published and marketed via traditional publishing simply because everything is so random. Unless you are an unknown writer, nobody gives a damn if you’re the next J.R.R. Tolkien. If they miss your manuscript, well, too bad.

To that extent, digital publishing has this massive positive aspect. Almost everybody can get published. The problem is, digital publishing, being easy, doesn’t also mean that it can bring you success. Success, just like anything else in the world depends on how well you have written, how interesting your story is, how many people know that you have published, how easy and affordable downloading your e-book is, what sort of name you have earned for yourself, how much success your earlier work has tasted and still, a good sprinkling of serendipity. Even the capricious reading preferences of people may affect the final tally. For instance, who would’ve thought that the writer of 50 Shades of Gray would become a cult figure? Success can be chaotic, unless you have a step-by-step plan and you really know what you are doing.

These success attributes don’t need to manifest in a particular order and there can be multiple variations. For instance, even if you haven’t published a single book or a short story yet, but you manage a successful blog and your audience loves you, then there is a good chance your digital book will sell like hot cakes. Even if you don’t have a blog, but you have vibrant Facebook presence, or Google Plus, or even Twitter, you will experience great success. Mind you, having thousands of followers on twitter or any of such social networking platforms doesn’t automatically make you successful. You should be constantly interacting with people and there should be lots of people liking you or respecting you.

So even if you are thinking of publishing your book on Amazon.com start building a platform, and an audience for yourself. This may take lots of effort, just the way writers these days need to do marketing in traditional publishing.

Digital publishing is the future

I will eventually be buying a Kindle book reader either this month or next month but I haven’t been waiting for it in order to read books. Recently I Tweeted that in the past couple of years I have read 5 times more books than I had read in the past 10 years, and this is all due to the availability of digital books. I may have my own personal reasons. Managing a digital book is much easier for me. Besides, I can read all the time, even if there are just 10 minutes to spare. Although I do much of my reading on my Samsung tablet sometimes I also read off my computer. These are not friendly ways of reading but they are far better than not reading it all.

E-book reader

It is believed that the printing press revolutionized reading as well as writing. All of a sudden reading became affordable and accessible. Combining a bunch of papers into a book was much easier than handling thicker counterparts. With the advent of web publishing, it became even easier to publish and make your writing accessible to a wider audience with little effort. Maybe that’s why conventional authors and publishers look at digital publishing a bit condescendingly.

Why conventional publishing is considered superior to the new age, digital publishing?

According to this Forbes article titled “Publishing Is Broken, We’re Drowning in Indie Books, That’s Good“, a conventional publishing writer says:

To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. … Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall

Why such an attitude? One reason could be, to tell you the truth, it is quite difficult to get your book published and then marketed the old-school way. Everything is so random unless you have already established yourself as a known name. 99% of the manuscripts – whether they’re deserving or not – are consigned to the dustbin and it depends merely on chance, or connections, whether your novel or book sees the light of the day or not. JK Rowling who wrote a series of Harry Potter books had to face lots of rejection from various publishing agencies. It was merely by chance that a junior subeditor let the book pass to a senior editor, and the rest is history.

Another writer, John Kennedy Toole, featured in the above linked article, committed suicide at the age of 31 because nobody would publish his book, “A Confederacy of Dunces”. Then the book was published posthumously and it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. What a waste. Had the digital publishing technology been available to him, this wouldn’t have happened. Just like him, there are thousands of writers who deserve a fair share of acclaim but their work is never published. I’m not saying that publishing houses are to be blamed – they simply have lots of manuscripts to process and it is humanly not possible to give them the attention they deserve.

So when writers succeed in this conventional world of publishing, they feel quite privileged, and there is nothing wrong in that. It takes lots of courage and perseverance for these writers to succeed, and the credit shouldn’t be taken away from them. I understand their feeling. Compared to that, digital publishing, or the term used in the above linked article, “Indie Publishing” is quite easy.

Take for instance publishing on Amazon.com or even on Google Play. All you have to do is write a book, convert it into a format that is preferred by these 2 companies, and then upload your book. Your book is published. Just like that. You can do it in a couple of days. For authors who might have struggled for years just to be noticed by an agent this might be baffling. But is it as easy as it seems?

Digital publishing is not as easy as it seems

No way. Just as everybody can publish a blog but you can count on your fingers the blogs that actually make money or achieve something useful for their publishers, people can go on publishing books but unless they are actually able to sell them it’s of no use. No matter what publishing platform you use, you need to do the marketing yourself, and this is where very few succeed.

Just like in the world of conventional publishing, you need to make a name for yourself in order to sell your digital books. You have to do the marketing. You have to reach out to your target audience/readers. It can be a slow and relentless process. In fact it may turn out to be harder compared to conventionally published writers because here you are doing everything on your own – writing your book, editing it, converting it to different formats, getting the ISBN number, publishing the book, and then marketing it strenuously. It can turn out to be a 35 x 7 x 365 exercise.

At this very moment thousands of people all over the world are uploading their books and clicking the “Publish” button.

Why digital publishing is the future

Just because something is difficult and takes a long time to achieve, doesn’t necessarily mean it is good. Conversely, just because something seems easy, doesn’t mean it is of inferior quality. But that’s perception.

Nobody doubts that digital content distribution is not just easier, it is also more targeted and more economical. The same goes for the written word. In 2012 both in America and UK, Amazon.com sold more digital books than paper books. As I mentioned above, I am reading more regularly ever since I started reading digital books not just because it is easier to read them (for me it is a big factor because of my disability) it is also easier to buy them. Previously you either had to visit a bookshop or order them online and then wait for their arrival. This was a deterrent. I can easily say that I have bought most of my digital books within 5 minutes of realizing that I should have them. For example, you are reading a blog post or an online article and come across a book that is highly recommended. Even though you have never heard of the book, but because you trust the blogger or the person who has written the article, you immediately head to your preferred digital bookseller and download the book after paying for it. Barnes ‘n Noble, Amazon and Google Play all store your payment details so it is just a matter of clicking a couple of buttons and there you go, the book is ready for you. Even if you don’t intend to purchase the book immediately, you can at least add it to your wish list so that you never lose the track and whenever you are thinking of buying a new book to read, you can quickly go through your wish list and purchase a book. These days I am reading On Writing by Stephen King; I remember adding it to my wish list a couple of years ago.

Another benefit of reading e-books is that whatever interface you use these days, it comes with all the tools you need to make full use of the book. You can create annotations. You can add notes. You can mark particular sentences and paragraphs so that you can revisit them. You can search for text. You can create multiple bookmarks. You can look up for difficult words in the embedded dictionary. Text to speech features immediately allow you to listen to your books rather than reading them. You can carry 100s of books in a small device. You can easily share your books with others using similar or compatible devices. Though personally I don’t like this, you can also indulge in social reading where you can exchange notes in real-time while reading the book. Everything regarding your books is automatically synchronized across multiple devices, so whatever you save or bookmark, you can resume your reading and researching from your computer, tablet PC or e-book reader without much fuss.

Competitive pricing is also another benefit of going digital. You don’t have to depend on your publishing agency to decide how much you’re going to charge for your book. Very soon you will also be able to sell individual chapters rather than complete books, just like these days you can purchase individual songs rather than having to purchase an entire DVD or CD.