E is for eBooks – The New Normal for Publishing


Harry Potter: I loved them!

I know most of you will not believe it, but I think my first experience with eBooks was in 1998 or 1999. The Harry Potter series was just starting off and the books had not reached India yet. Then one day, a friend got me a pdf file on a CD, and said that I HAD to read it as it was a brilliant book (It was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, of course). I am so glad I did! At the time, I had no idea I was indulging in piracy, and I could not wait to find the next book online and read it.

This brings us to an important topic related to eBooks, one which gets a lot of publishers and authors up in arms today. EBook Piracy!

The problem of eBook Piracy

The publishing industry is going through a same phase with the rise of eBooks, which the music industry went through with the introduction of mp3s and file sharing. With eBooks becoming wildly popular, piracy has also increased manifold. Just take a look at the similarities: Both, the music and publishing industries have had a drop in sales over the past few years. Both blame piracy as one of the top reasons for this. Both also blame the digitization of their products for this collapse. Both industries now have an amazing platform to sell digitally, with iTunes and the Kindle, but both are resisting this and want to continue with their old way of doing business. And consumers in both industries are not willing to forego the benefits of digitization and go back to how things were.

No it does not!

Coming back to eBook piracy. Piracy of digital content is something no one has ever been able to stop. Music, films, games and books have all experimented with digital rights management (DRM) and have failed because the paying customers do not like restrictions. So, they have a major decision to make. Do you focus on the people who are robbing your content and may likely never buy it, or do you focus on the customers you already have, and are glad to pay for your products? I’ve seen so many indie authors spending hours trying to track down and shut down pirates,  hours which they could have used to write books for the people who actually love them. One reason I’d like to mention here for the blatant piracy of eBooks is access. A lot of markets are still locked out of this revolution and are driving the demand for piracy. I am not saying this is right, but I do understand why it happens.

The new Self Publishing Phenomenon

The new Self Publishing Phenomenon

And this gets me to the second big revolution to hit publishing in the last few years, self-publishing. Since the time I started this blog a few months back, I have come in contact with so many wonderful indie authors who have been able to get their amazing books out into the world due to self-publishing and Amazon’s Kindle. No doubt, this has made life difficult for everyone including traditional publishers, self-published authors and readers. Traditional publishers have had to contend with the flood of content now available in digital formats. Indie authors are struggling to market themselves and their books and readers have to contend with the flood of subpar content in the online eBook markets. Also, with Amazon’s KDP, the market is now flooded so much free content, I am having a tough time sifting through the free books to get to the good ones. In fact, I am having a really tough time stopping myself from clicking the “Buy Now” button every time I see a freebie.

The future of Publishing - I can't wait for it!

I just want to say that I am loving every second of this experience and being on the cusp of this major shift in the industry. In the end, as eBooks mature as a format, things will settle down. But, for this to happen, three changes are really important. One, traditional publishers will have to accept eBooks whole heartedly and rationalize the prices they charge for eBooks, which are currently on par with paperbacks if not more. Secondly, all the fluff of self-published authors who should never have published their books will need to fall by the wayside and make room for the ones who deserve to be there. And finally, every reader around the world will need to be included in this new world of publishing and literacy!

Publishing is never going to be the same again. There will be a lot of new winners and losers. But one thing I am certain about, the readers will win in the end and I am going to be waiting with a lot of anticipation for that day to come!

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30 responses to “E is for eBooks – The New Normal for Publishing

  1. alchemyofscrawl

    I lol’ed when I read you got a PDF of Harry Potter! The best argument I’ve heard and this is from a business that is the biggest media outlet on the Internet says, “You HAVE to make your service more attractive then the service the pirates are providing.” That makes complete sense to me and I hope common sense prevails.

    • Coral, this is why I am watching the Pottermore experiment very closely. If it succeeds, it will create a product which no one can pirate, and at the same time creates a recurring revenue stream. This would be every publishing company’s dream come true.

      • alchemyofscrawl

        I like Barry Eisler’s comment about how JK Rowling waited to create Pottermore – fooking brilliant! lol I’m still not sure about it but it will be interesting to see. First time an author has taken the upper hand over a publisher.

  2. Doesn’t it just kill you when an ebook is priced higher than its paperback brother? I know publishers are concerned about revenue, but damn son!

    • With the rise of Indie publishing, as the better content rises to the top, consumers will shirk from paying that much for eBooks. And hopefully, traditional publishers will recognize eBooks for what they are, an opportunity to inject new life into an industry which seems to be sick.
      Traditional publishers want to postpone the inevitable rather than embrace it as the opportunity it really is.

    • Personally, I really can’t understand what the publishers are trying to achieve. Their traditional business was going down before the arrival of eBooks, and has only picked up pace since then. They need a concrete strategy to benefit from the digital revolution, which I have not seen happening from publishers.

  3. I have gone back to buying books in hard cover again because of these horrific ebook prices. 10 bucks for an ebook and 12 books for a hard cover and 9 bucks for a paperback.. what would I want ? I may not have room but.. ARGH! And Stephen King is the worst one! Let’s see… I have NO issues paying five bucks for an ebook if I know it is a good book or my friends have given it a great thumbs up!

    THIS post is a great post! I hope you do this once a week, you have a good take on things and I think it gives us mere mortals here in the US should hear your opinions!

    • I really hope I can make this a regular affair. I actually enjoyed writing, more than I had imagined I would! And, good to know someone is listening to my opinions. Thank you Kriss!

  4. Excellent post, Ritesh! It will be interesting seeing how this wave plays out. If nothing else, the Pottermore experiment will prevent many people from hurting themselves when they dozed off reading Harry Potter in bed. ;)

  5. Excellent article, Ritesh. I enjoyed your recounting your first experience with Harry Potter! I agree with you that it is counter productive to focus on piracy and it is a distraction to what should be the primary goals of publication which is to deliver a product consumers are willing to pay for – in other words to deliver value.

    • I’ve always maintained that this is the logical thing to do, as online piracy is generally not an organized crime, but so many individuals doing it, it is very difficult to go after the offenders. And, just as difficult to go after the enablers due to reasons such as limitations of geography, etc.

  6. I loved this! I will always be a fan of the paperback, but I have to admit, the kindle is uber-convenient. Especially for getting in on those freebies! The more books I have access to, the more reviews I can write. If I like a book enough when I read it on kindle, I will still by the paperback to keep. I can’t help myself, I love books!!!

    • Hi Donna! Good to see you here, and thanks for stopping by! For me, I’ve never been a big fan of paperbacks. I actually like reading on the computer. I know its weird, and I may be the only person who says that, but it is what it is! But still, I would hate to see print books go out completely, not that I think that is going to happen in a long, long time.

  7. Indies Unlimited sent me. Great post! I too have a hard time not clicking on all the freebies~but still like my print books :)

  8. I loved this post! Made a lot of sense. Definitely hope good things are in store and your first experience with Harry Potter in PDF made me smile, haha xD

  9. Hi Ritesh, a very interesting post – and very brave to admit you sneakily watched HP on pdf cd pirate copy ;o) And I agree, the changes in publishing are a win win situation for readers. And you could say for writers too, because in many ways there has never been a better time for writers to see their words in print.
    Thanks again!

    • Well, I was a minor then, so I think they won’t be able to sue me! Also, considering I am in India, it would be difficult to get to me. LOL But then again, if I would have known then that I was pirating books, I would have not done it … … … Maybe. :P

  10. You’re such an insightful person Ritesh! Although I oppose piracy but I can understand why piracy occurs throughout the world. Take my country for example, we love the music and the books, but at the same time the original music CD’s and books costs 3X the prices of in the US and UK. (Thank God Youtube is free) According to my observation at my place, that is the prime reason that drove people to commit this ‘crime’. However, I do have to say that piracy is disrespectful to the authors because it is violating their rights, yet if they only look at piracy at a ‘losing money’ angle, then it is quite a sad thing to say. Shouldn’t good things be shared with the world? LOL…

    (I am not sure where am I going with this post XD, I both oppose and support Piracy, lol)

    • Its a really complex thing for readers. Does piracy in areas where the authors’ books are not available hurt them or support them? That is one question I’d like answered!

  11. Heres a book I found that explores the craft of writing in the 21st Century. Between the Sheets is the story of two writers journey to publish their art and navigate the emerging world of digital self-publishing. The authors share insightful wisdom and humor in relating their successes in the new age of the book.

  12. Cool blog!
    As a self-publisher, I love it! Writers have so many more opportunities now. If you can’t grab the attention of a publisher, you can DIY and maybe later grab it – if you want that! I agree, with so much opportunity comes an avalanche of books and then hey, your book becomes a pin in a haystack – where’s it gone? Cue marketing. And that’s the difficult part of any self-publishers ‘job’ – how to get your book noticed. You just hope you’ve made it the best you can and then you just keep your fingers-crossed, or find as many four-leaf clovers as you can… As for piracy… the idea of someone ‘stealing’ your work is just wrong, but I don’t know whether it’s just a necessary evil… then again we’ve all done it in some way or other, I guess. Who hasn’t downloaded a film? I have. Sorry! I don’t like the idea of piracy, but I guess it’s going to happen one way or another… :)
    It’s a cool new e-book world.
    Vickie

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  15. Pingback: How Indie is Changing Reading by Charlotte E. English | Ritesh Kala's Book Reviews

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