J.A. Konrath recently published a very funny satire entitled, “Print is Eternal,” in which the Print Industry joins Obsolete Anonymous, doesn’t understand why it’s there, and is edified by other characters named things like VHS Tapes, LP Records, Antique Stores, Video Rental Stores, TV Antennas, and Paper Fold-out Maps.
Video Rental Store: What Ma Bell is trying to say is that when a technology comes along that’s faster, easier, and cheaper, the old technology–and all the companies that supported it–tends to fade away.
Print Industry: Why are you here, Video Rental Store? There are still Blockbuster Videos everywhere.
CDs: There were record stores everywhere once.
Cassette Tapes: Hell yeah! They sold cassettes, too! Someone give me a high five!
(no one gives Cassette Tapes a high five)
The underlying message is clear, and I agree with it entirely — print books are more vulnerable than ever, and the trend is only accelerating. And, unlike with music, movies, or maps, there are actually fewer impediments to an ebook breakthrough.
There is already pricing advantages to ebooks — consumers can save $5-10 per ebook title over print.
Devices for ebook reading are plentiful, from iPhones to Kindles to iPads.
Just last week, Amazon reported that the Kindle is its top-selling product, and that it has 500,000 e-book titles for sale, including 90% of the New York Times’ bestsellers.
The e-book era has arrived. Librarians want to participate, authors want to participate, readers want to participate.
And if publishers continue to “window” the release of their e-book editions, make life uncomfortable for authors, drag their feet in provisioning e-books into key markets, or stage pricing battles with readers, my guess is that authors will continue to drift into self-publishing their titles as e-books, further eroding what is already a tenuous publisher-author relationship.
J.A. Konrath knows this. He’s published traditional novels in the past, but is now publishing his own e-book versions of them while self-publishing other novels. And he’s apparently making more money and reaching more readers by doing things himself.
Nobody will high-five publishers if they let that happen.