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The future of publishing, writing, and reading books

in Random Musings

Today Amazon started its e-book loaning process in 11,000 libraries nationwide. Users can use their Kindle, free Kindle app, or even their computer to borrow e-books using their library card.

Couple this with the fast-growing e-book and self-publishing markets and I, as both a writer and a reader, wonder what is in store for my future.

The Past

In the past, a handful of big dogs like Random House, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster ran the publishing industry. To help new writers get on those publisher’s desks, authors employed agents to prove their valor. Many publishing houses stopped reading unsolicited and/or unagented manuscripts. A writer, therefore, had to first impress an agent and then a publisher. It was a long drawn out process, and each person in the string between the writer and the bookstore each earned a piece of that $19.95 book if it was hardcover, and they had enough for a stick of gum if you bought it at the bargain bin in Wal-Mart. Used bookstores were the legal pirates of the printed world because no one from author to editor to agent to publisher saw a penny of that transaction. The good news was that by the time that book made it to the Barnes & Noble shelf, the odds were good that it was quality.

Photo by Mattox on

The Self-Publishing Revolution

Over the last several years, however, writers started bucking the system. Perhaps it was for hatred of the red tape involved in getting published, or perhaps it was because they wanted a larger slice of the pie… self-publishing was born. The good news here is that anyone and their typing pooch can get a book on a local store’s shelf with enough money to pay for editing and printing yourself. This form of publishing became known as vanity publishing, and while it did give a new avenue to see your life’s work in print, it was also a lot more work to make a book successful because the writer had to also become marketer and investor.

The E-book Revolution

Thus entered e-publishing. Now writers do not even have to print the manuscript, they can simply pay for a program that will take their manuscript and transform it into an elaborate PDF-style manuscript so they can sell it on their webpage, on Amazon, on eBay, or through direct marketing. This eliminated even more “middle men” as a printing press was no longer necessary AND writers never had to let their piece go. In fact many writers continued to correct their work once they start selling.

The Future

While I understand the point to all of these changes, my mind is left spinning as to where all of this might be headed. As an author looking for a career and not just a “one hit wonder,” I have always kind of turned a snobby nose up to all those vanity published “authors.” I have seen writers begin a successful career using both self-publishing and e-publishing, but I cannot say that it has been easier than traditional publishing; their are simply different hoops to jump through. Call me old-fashion, but I personally would like to take my chances with a reputable agent rather than going at this alone, but now, I am wondering if another method will even exist in the coming years.

Will libraries be taken over by computers and e-books and e-readers? Will Barnes & Noble become an online retailer to their Nook while their storefronts find the same fate as Borders? Will my children know what it feels like to turn the page of a new release? As a reader, how will I ever know what book is worth investing my time, and as a writer, how will I ever prove that my novel is worthy of your 99 cents?

The publishing world is on a fast-moving roller coaster right now, and I for one, am left screaming through the darkness in anticipation of what might be around the next bend.

Sound off

What are your thoughts? Are you still sticking with printed books, or have you taken the e-book plunge? What are your preferences? I would love to hear from you. Comment below.

Lyssa September 23, 2011 at 3:38 am

I can see a use for both mediums but when it comes to taking a book on vacation or an author I really love it is hard copy all the way for me. It would be terribly sad to see the printed book go away. And I don’t think I am alone. While it is easy to see how newsprint can be digital I just can’t see books as having the same fate.

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