The price of e-books has been in the news quite a lot due to the Department of Justice suit and has created a huge amount of amazing posts. To begin with, I’m going to link a few of the posts that helped me make sense of the issue and then I want to write about some of the intangibles of what makes a book and what defines a book’s worth.
Today is not Tomorrow-a great article about Amazon’s weaknesses
The Department of Justice and Publishing from Smart Bitches Trashy Books, one of the best round ups of links and explanations that I’ve found so far.
Why e-books cost so much? from CNet is a highly informative article and part of the genesis of this post.
What I wish to look at is the question of who is putting value into the books and what do we as readers and librarians need to be thinking of as the world of publishing keeps shifting. This breakdown is based on the classic model of an author working with a publishing company but I will try to work in some of what has changed.
The Author-Every book begins with an author and to that author, their book is the culmination of an idea that they have worked on for possibly years. As the book is being published, that means that they have had the joy of hearing a publisher go, yes, we want to make sure this is made available to the public.
The Editor-They have taken on a book and helped an author through the journey of preparing their book to be released upon the world. The editor is an ally for the writer as they help them polish and craft their work so it can be the best shape possible.
The Publishing House-The editor and the author are within the publishing house but they are only a small part of what it takes to see a book come together. Cover artists, marketing, other editors, they work with the author to figure out how best to share the book with the world. Publishing houses come in all shapes and sizes, the same considerations occur whether the publisher is a dedicated group of five or a huge company with hundreds of staff. One of these considerations is how to profit off of the book finding its proper audience. They are all the allies of the author and they will make certain that the final result of the book in whatever format is the best that it can be.
The Intermediaries-I consider the intermediaries the ones who get the book into the hands of the perfect reader for the book. This grouping is where the world has changed because for a long time intermediaries were only bookstores and perhaps libraries. Publishing houses aimed most of their publicity at them and still do as they will see the right book put into the right hands. Due to the advent of the internet, the intermediaries have grown to include bloggers, online retailers, friends, the author who promotes the book on Twitter and Facebook and many other variations. Now a publishing house and author have a harder time knowing who should they be aiming their publicity at and how many formats should be possible for this book to be read in.
One of the most worrying parts of many e-book discussions is how often these intermediaries are taken out of the picture instead the ideal seems to be the reader finds the book. This is certainly possible but its not as simple as it seems. Every e-book reader is a device that requires time to learn how to use it properly, if there are no intermediaries to help a reader understand their device, there are more steps to the book. Also one of the greatest voices for a book is a reader who has read it and says to their friend, you read it too. With a print book, this step is easy, you lend the book to your friend or tell them where to get it, yet with an e-book, there might or might not be multiple steps before it can be lent. This is where I believe the first article I linked presents some of the best ideas of how to make sure that a company like Amazon doesn’t dominate the conversation. E-books shouldn’t be anymore complicated than they need to be or else they become something that gets in the way of the reader getting to the book.
The Reader-To a reader the book might be many things; a chance to discover a new world, a return to a world they enjoy, a way to connect with a friend who said read this and know me. The end result of the work of the author, editor, publishing house and intermediaries is to get the book into the hands of a reader who will enjoy it. One of the amazing aspects of how the internet has changed the book world is now a reader can become an intermediary as well. They can praise a book on multiple platforms, connect to the author on social media and thus find the best audience for the book.
The digital world of e-books, social media and other venues of publishing all present new and fantastic opportunities for the book world along with confusion. How can a self-published author best connect with their audience? How can a publishing house stay connected to their readers? How can an author balance their public and private lives? How can the steps between each piece be done well and easily for all involved? How can we get the right book into the hands of the right reader?