Well, it looks like Amazon might be dragging the big publishing companies into the new technology once again. Speaking as an author, I couldn’t be happier.
One of my main complaints with eBooks has always been that the publishing companies were raking in extra cash at the expense of both the artist and the consumer: with eBooks being sold at the same or similar price as physical books in most cases, publishers were successfully eliminating printing and shipping costs, but without passing the those savings onto to the artist through larger royalties, or the consumer with lower prices.
Tackling this issue has been a long time coming. The massive writer’s strike in the entertainment industry a couple of years ago was over very similar circumstances; distribution companies were tapping into extra income streams through new media distribution channels (such as streaming video and video on demand), but were being extremely vague about these new ventures when it came to sharing royalties with writers under contracts written up before the explosion of communication technologies.
Now, with Amazon offering 70% royalties for sales on books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, Amazon is effectively forcing the publisher’s hand on their sketchy pricing policies regarding new technology book sales, while also easing criticisms of their price reduction policies. This should not only improve writer confidence in releasing works in eBook format, but the lower pricing involved with the royalty shift should also result in increased book sales. Of course, Kindle sales might also increase a bit, which I’m sure is one of the main motivating factors behind the move.
Of course, the big question is, am I okay with this move as an author if it actually makes it harder to get my work in physical print? As the shift to eBooks increases, the eventual risk is that book stores and publishers will eventually cut down on both storage and display space, which could eventually result in smaller print run books being cancelled or avoided altogether. Would I be just as happy if I had nothing physical to show for sales of my work other than a stream of data?
I’ll admit, the ultimate fantasy fulfillment of any writer is to see the product of their talent and craft sitting on a bookstore shelf, resting on a living room coffee table, or cradled in the hand of an attentive reader. But when you strip away all of the ornamentation and pretense, the true testament to a writer’s success is the words on the page and their eager consumption by others. So if those words are read off of a handheld device screen instead of a paper sheet, has my writing been any less successful? Or, to put it another way, if a tree falls in the forest, and it isn’t turned into a paperback novel, does that make anyone less of an author? I don’t think so. It’s just a matter of changing with the times, and if we reach the point that novels are etched on grains of sand in subatomic binary code, I have a feeling there will still be plenty of writers working diligently to fill those grains.
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