Friday, April 20, 2012

I'm getting to hate e-books less

Most of the literate world seems to really love e-books. The convenience and (often) the low price are hard to beat. E-book sales are zooming, and taking business away from p-books.

As someone who loves reading, and writing, and publishing, and techie toys, I probably should have been an early adopter of e-books. But I wasn't, for a simple and important reason. I think most e-books look like shit.

E-books take the appearance of the book away from the book's designer and give it to the reader. Readers decide some very basic design aspects such as typeface and type size, page orientation, and even page color and whether one page or two appear on the screen. Photos and illustrations don't necessarily appear where the designer wanted them to be. There are multiple standards for making e-books, sadly reminiscent of the old VHS vs. Betamax videotape war. There is variation among the multiple devices used to read e-books. It's possible that a hundred people could be reading the same book -- but it's not really the same book.

Readers may love their power to customize, but as someone who cares about the way my books look, I don't.

However, although I still dislike the appearance of most e-books, three things have changed my publishing strategy.

  1. MONEY: I make much more each month from the $3.82-$4.99 e-book versions of my Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults) than I do from the more expensive paperback and hardcover editions. As a publisher who wants to make money, and as a writer who wants to be read, I'd be foolish not to respond to what readers want.
  2. AFFORDABILITY: Readers are much more likely to take a chance on a book selling for $1.99 to $9.99 than one selling for $20-$30.
  3. NEW DESIGN FREEDOM: It's possible to put more into an e-book than into a p-book. I'm not yet ready to provide animations or sound effects, but hyperlinks can be very useful, and color photos and illustrations make it easier to make a point, and they make the book simply nicer. Color p-books can be very expensive. Color e-books cost no more than monochrome e-books.
My first eight e-books were e-versions of p-books, but my newest, 499 Important Self-Publishing Tips for a Penny Apiece will be e-only. I'm doing the final editing now, and it should be on sale in a week or two. I'll let you know.

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