Amazon has just released very healthy figures for the last year and this should be a strong nudge to the shoulder of publishers that they need to be serious about ebooks sales. They need to cast aside the mixture of lethargy and bemusement which was evident at last week’s unveiling of the Kindle 2 in New York City’s Morgan Library. While there are many ebook readers about, from the Kindle, Sony and the European produced Irex—even games giant Nintendo see the possibilities in this area. They released their own ebook styled software reader of books for the 2008 Christmas market.
There is a fair and reasoned argument on behalf of publishers regarding the ebook format of book releases. They argue that they pay the same amount in author advances, editing, marketing and promotion to put out a title. What they don’t face up to is the changing world of demand and immediacy, and the fact that the music industry has been dealing with the same multi format ‘point of sale’ release and downloading of products for many years. The fact is, in regard to ‘DIY’ artist, the music industry has long since got over the idea that they can only market CD’s and that there is only a sacred and ‘precious’ single format of a product—ever since the days we all dispensed with our vinyl collections and moved on. The challenge is not just for them to cast aside the elitist clothing they wear, but transcend themselves out of the pit they have dug.
We are now in an industry where the ‘means’ or ‘medium’ to being published is no longer king, and the reality of electronic communication and the global web community makes our world a much smaller and instantly accessible place—bridging time and language— how best we network and connect the things we have to share is how we will move forward.
The International Digital Publishing Forum has released quarterly statistics for the sales of ebooks and sales are very healthy, and so publishers should soon get the message. The IDPF notes: “Retail numbers may be as much as double the above figures due to industry wholesale discounts.”
One of my favourite books is H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine. In it, the inventor travels far into the future to discover a world devoid of spirit, emotion and progress. He is shown an ancient library full of books by a young man from the community. In the library, the inventor finds shelves of dusty, unread, crumbling books and is outraged as to why the community has ignored and left the place fall into utter disrepair. On a table beside the crumbling books he spins a ring of precious metal and it reveals the downfall of man’s progression through ignorance, war and destruction.
A grand analogy, but the fact is, our industry is just the stretch of an arm away from those crumbling books to those magical rings. It’s time to blow away the dust and reach out.