by Cynthia W. Moore
Digital Book World published an article on their blog entitled “Who Cares How You Read? Just Read.” Writer Laura Brady wrote that “There has been a lot of press lately about data that looks like it’s pointing to declining book sales and surging print sales.” Well, if third quarter data counts as data, she is, indeed, correct. Publisher’s Weekly recently posted that third quarter eBook sales were “down” at HarperCollins and “weak” at Penguin Random House. Is the ever-climbing eBook sales graph line headed to the long tail? Perish the thought!
The digital publishing industry is just hitting puberty and suitors of all kinds are lining up at the door. Brady writes that, although she is now an eBook developer, she “loves books [and] started working in publishing because of a romantic idea of what books and the people who publish them are all about.” She even admits that she doesn’t “apply the same romanticism to the business she works in now.” Ah, there’s the rub. People really do have an attachment to their books. Reading books digitally is utilitarian. You can’t really cuddle up to an e-reader, but you can get your work done.
Even playground bully Amazon has weighed in on the disruptive mess it has created by changing its status to brick-and-mortar bookstore owner as well. Many “Like” the move and the comments are overwhelmingly favorable.
Laura Brady, though, is really addressing publishers and doing some much-needed PR for eBooks:
“I think there are certainly a lot of misconceptions about ebooks—that they can’t be nicely-designed, that they are worth less than print, that reading them is a “less-than” experience. None of these things are true. But they will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if publishers believe them and put little to no energy or creative attention into their digital publishing programs. Just like mass market paperbacks upended a staid publishing culture in the ‘30s, ebooks aren’t going anywhere and need to be a critical part of the publishing planning process.”
Brady goes on to say that “Some of us are working constantly to make future-proof ebooks that are nice to look at and easy to consume despite the confusing proliferation of specs and devices.” Apparently it is up to publishers to save eBooks’ fourth quarter sales and thereby the industry overall. Sometimes, though, I like rooting for the underdog and unlike Brady, I do “get jazzed by the smell of paper” in a newly purchased book.
Cynthia Moore is a writer and former educator who joined the M.P.S. in Publishing program at The George Washington University to gain cutting edge industry know-how to launch her own publishing venture.