There has been so much written about how digital content is changing publishing. The range of opinions and emotions is diverse. Fear and excitement seem to be the two most often expressed. I find the debate interesting and fruitful. At Author Solutions we have an Author Council, which includes authors who have used indie publishing to get their books into the market. Recently, they have had a discussion about the impact of Ebooks and its impact on creativity and potential sales. What follows is an excerpt from Chris Marks. Chris publishes as CS Marks and has a series of books available in digital and print formats. I think here perspective is insightful and helpful.
The development of mass printing might have been viewed as a loss of creativity, but that loss must be balanced against the fact that mass printing made information available to the masses. Had it not occurred, most of the planet would still be illiterate. When the monks were ‘liberated’ from the task of copying the same manuscript over and over, they had more time to do the artistic things.
I have struggled with the age of digital ‘artwork’, wherein a so-called artist takes a photographic image, manipulates it using a computer, and calls it ‘art’. I sit in my ‘cell’ with paintbrushes and mason board and acrylic paints and work meticulously for hours. There is no ‘undo’ button. There are no ‘special effects’ I can perform in microseconds. It takes me hours and hours and hours to do a piece of cover art!
But I have to bow to the will of authors who pay less than $100 for a cover that took ten minutes to generate. Are those digital manipulators ‘artists’? Not to me, they’re not. They’re artisans, maybe…perhaps craftsmen or designers. ‘Art’ is still done by hand in my world. Yet I have no objection to seeing that art reproduced for many people to enjoy. I welcome it, in fact.
E-books open the world of publishing up to anyone with access to the internet. Anyone in the world with a pc, smartphone, or whatever can purchase Elfhunter for a very low price and enjoy it. And…they ARE. E-book sales have exceeded my wildest expectations. Yet I am still selling print books at the same rate as before. I still do book-signings and I still sell out at conventions. Many readers have told me that they tried EH on the Kindle, found that they enjoyed the trilogy, and have since purchased hard copies for their friends and for themselves. I send them signed, personalized bookplates and–voila! A signed book. Meanwhile, those who don’t care for my work have not invested much. E-books break the barrier of high cover prices for POD authors. Without them, my readership would be less than half of what it is today.
When trying a new author, I don’t purchase a hard copy–I get an e-book. I can sample the first 10%, and I can return it within 7 days. There are no production costs, no shipping costs, no warehousing or storage costs, and if I ultimately decide I do not like the book, I don’t have to worry about what to do with a hard copy. If I love the book, I’ll buy the hard copy to add to my collection.
The world is changing, and we must adapt. I was stubborn for a while, but I put my nose in the wind and realized which way it was blowing. Good stories should be enjoyed by and shared with as many readers as possible. Information should be available to all. If we can do that with a minimum of environmental impact, I say forge ahead…just try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.