Monday, December 26, 2011

A Change Is Gonna Come

There has been much ado about ebooks and the future of publishing. I found this article while researching this blog: On one hand, we have a group of people saying that ebook’s are just another medium through which books can be sold. On the other, we have a group that claims ebooks are the future. I belong to this last group. Sure, ebooks are just another vehicle for books, for now. The massive proliferation of smartphones, the introduction of digital tablets and the ubiquitous presence of computers in modern society all point to a time where print (not books) will die. It’s not a matter of if, but when. It might not happen in our lifetime, but it will happen sooner than later.

Contrary to my point of view, I love books. I’d rather flip through pages than slide my finger on a screen, but I understand where the industry is heading. Ebooks save trees, are cheaper to produce, store and distribute, have less middlemen involved and their prices are lower. And that’s the key: cheaper, faster and more practical. I usually travel with two to three books with me; that’s not counting the ones I buy during some of my trips. Nowadays I can carry as many books as I want in a thin, light iPad.

Ebooks are to publishing as the Internet was to music; it’s a game changer. I hope the publishing industry realizes this faster than the music industry and adapts to the changes as they come. Yet evidence seems to point to the contrary. Ebooks are still treated as an ancillary profit rather than the next big thing. The resistance shown by the publishing houses and literary agents is understandable. Change is never easy and there are jobs (even careers) and true-tried systems threatened by this new paradigm. For example, why would a publisher depend on an agent when they can scout the web for self-published books, some of which already have a readership? Amanda Hocking might be an exceptional example of this, but I think you get the idea. Think about it: no cumbersome storage, no printing fees, no unsold copies to deal with, no physical distribution system and so on.

Ebooks are not a fad, they are here to stay and keep evolving alongside technology. They’re prone because of high-speed Internet, numerous popular reading platforms, a growing market ,and a system that maximizes profits for the publishers. To think that ebooks will never overtake its print counterparts is na├»ve at best. Of course, attached to this issue is an irrational fear that indie writers and our “lesser works” will flood the market. Artists are not created by technology. The printing press didn’t ushered an era of Shakespeares, file sharing didn’t sprung a new crop of Beatles, and YouTube didn’t give birth to a thousand Kubricks. It did, however, give an outlet for a number of people whom otherwise would have remained in obscurity because of geographic location, lack of opportunity and any number of other obstacles.

Like I said, I’m a technophile, but I have fond memories of LPs, the distinct sound the needle made when it touched the acetate, and browsing through the awesome (and large) album covers sitting on the floor of a record store. There might a time where those memories will be accompanied by others of me searching for books at a bookstore, flipping pages, feeling their weight and admiring their cover design. Such is the burden of any generation as it ages. Like the saying goes, “Nothing is permanent except change.”

Keep on running!

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