Sunday, February 10, 2013

Guest Post: What Do E-Readers Mean For Authors? by Joe Shervell

Joe Shervell from LoveReading, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.

What Do E-Readers Mean For Authors?

E-readers such as the Kindle, Nook, and iPad offer a lot of advantages to the tech-savvy reader. Being able to transport an entire library in a single screened reader allows for a great deal more flexibility and privacy in purchasing and reading. This is particularly beneficial to the reader whose tastes run to the erotica and erotic romance spectrum, because they can read unobtrusively on their commute or break without having to worry about being embarrassed by a racy cover or getting “those” glances from others. For authors, e-readers offer new opportunities to attract readers, but this opportunity comes at a price. Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of e-readers from the author’s perspective.

1) Attracting new readers

With “lending library” technology, readers can rent or borrow e-books easily and inexpensively. This allows them to be more experimental with their reading, giving “new (to them)” authors a better chance of being discovered. This has its good and bad points, of course. While many authors think readers will gladly pay for a book they truly enjoy, security and intellectual property concerns continue to plague this subset of the publishing industry. Some authors point out that if a reader can get an e-book for free, they will have less incentive to buy the book through reputable channels.

2) The “old-fashioned” argument

For avid readers over the age of thirty, many will agree there’s no substitute for curling up with a physical book and a cup of tea late at night and relaxing. While print books aren’t as portable, readers and authors alike appreciate the feel of actually turning a page and feeling paper under their fingers. Few will argue that swiping a screen offers the same sense of contact with the author’s work and words as a book, because books are a very tactile experience. Additionally with an e-book, there’s no way for an author to physically sign reader copies unless the reader prints out the book, which is a violation of copyright law. A signed copy of a book from a favorite author often becomes a cherished keepsake, but isn’t possible in e-format, although Kindlegraph is one example of efforts to apply the “feel” of physical books to e-books.

3) Loss of revenue

For most authors, going to e-book formats presents new challenges. DRM (data rights management) and e-book stamping are popular methods of preventing piracy, but these measures can be defeated. Once done, these books can be uploaded to torrent and peer to peer download sites simply and quickly. This can represent a loss to the individual author of hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars per work. When one considers that the vast majority of authors don’t and can’t work for free, but to pay bills and keep food on the table, these losses become very frightening.

4) Distribution

The e-reader debate is not all gloom and doom, however. Many authors embrace e-book technology as another sales channel to make their work available to readers. Small presses in particular often start books in e-format, releasing them in print after a specified time or threshold number of sales indicate that print releasing will be financially viable for the press and the author. This has the advantage of getting the author’s work on the virtual “shelves” more quickly and therefore makes smaller presses and lesser-known authors more competitive with Big Six publishing and New York Times-bestselling authors.

5) More Promotional Opportunities

For independent and self-published authors, e-books offer an unprecedented level of control and flexibility in reaching readers. Programs like Kindle Direct Prime offer generous royalties to authors, with the caveat that their work has to be offered for free at certain times during their initial contract cycle. Many authors dislike this enforced giveaway policy, but others state it gives them a powerful marketing tool and actually boosts their revenue. As with so many other things, the benefits of e-books versus regular paper books seem to lie largely in the eye of the beholder.

About the author:

Joe writes for many outlets including LoveReading.


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