I’ve been assisting with the selection of stories for an e-book that will be associated with an established literary journal. All pieces submitted to the print journal are being considered for the e-book, if accepted, writers will be asked if they are happy to be published electronically, they will be paid the same amount as the print edition.
Surveys have shown that it is older writers that are more acceptable of electronic publication. I don’t know if this is because they have already been published in print, probably to a limited readership and are excited by the wider distribution potential of electronic media. Younger writers might either be enamoured by the perceived credibility of print, or feel that they could vanity publish electronically and avoid the submission path.
Vanity publishing electronically releases all manner of worms from various cans. Apparently, a new blog is created every two seconds, obviously these are not all literature but it does make for a mammoth pile of crap to sift through in order to find the ‘good’ stuff. Most noticeable in the blogosphere is the omission of editors, that is; copy editors, proof readers, selection based on aesthetic guidelines etc.
With the works I’ve been reading, the e-book will be associated with an established and respected literary journal and will go through the same editing process as the print version in the interest of ‘brand’ protection.
This potential free-for-all vanity publishing threat leads me to Laurie Steed’s comments in this forum. After print dies (which I don’t believe it will entirely and will explain later) who will control distribution of e-works. An hegemony is forming, a three-headed Cerberus, Google-Apple-Amazon. Digital rights management (DRM) considerations threaten to bottleneck an otherwise infinite distribution channel, honest consumers could be punished for buying a book through legal means rather than choosing the bit-torrent, pirate channel and taking a non-restricted “free” version.
With a rigorous editing process, electronic media does offer amazing possibilities. Apart from the technological advantages – such as cross-media creations and active links within text – the distribution potential could reinvigorate the market. Not only the fact that a book could be released simultaneously around the work, but simple considerations like shelf space. Traditionally, unless you were Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or, dare I say, Stephenie Meyer, the chance of a book store stocking your 200,000 word, wide spined book was next to nothing. It’s all about real estate, and shelf space is very valuable, shelf life for a new release is three to six months, then it’s back catalogue or the dreaded bargain basket. E-books remove the restriction on size. This works equally for smaller publications. As Nigel Featherstone wrote in this Forum, by quoting his interview with Mandy Brett, the cost considerations of print will no longer be an issue. This is great news for poets and short story / novella writers, and in turn, great news for readers who haven’t had this purchasing option for a while, the shorter form being ideal for the pace of today’s world.
Print will not die. This morning I listened to a podcast of the Book Show where the move of comics from 22 page single editions, to multi edition graphic novels, to electronic media was discussed. One panel member recalled that radio did not kill newspapers, television did not kill radio and the internet / e-book will not kill print. Print will find a niche market, to a large extent it has already – in a survey conducted by the Jenkins Group (US), 70% of adults in the US have not stepped into a book store in the last five years. Ironically this same survey found that 80% of the US population want to write a book (WTF?). The Book Show panel members spoke of the print future with regards to the e-distribution of comic books. A question at the end of some electronic graphic novels asks “like what you read? Buy the hard copy.” Click a link and you’re taken to hard copy distributors, both online and shop front.
There will always be people who like to be surrounded by books, floor to ceiling bookshelves, walls “wallpapered with savages”, words threatening to leap and choke you when you least expect it. The new media merely offers a cheap, but infinite, distribution channel which will ultimately lead to a wider readership.
The e-form is the future and will hopefully revitalise an industry that is otherwise in demise.