“The death of independent bookshops is just one symptom of a much wider crisis in publishing. Discounted books, online bookselling and the advent of ebooks are destroying old patterns of reading and book buying. We are living through a revolution as enormous as the one created by Gutenberg’s printing press – and authors and publishers are terrified they will become as outdated as the monks who copied out manuscripts. How this happened is down to ambitious editors, greedy agents, demanding writers and big businesses with an eye for easy profit. Combine that with devilishly fast technological innovation and you have a story as astonishing as the credit crunch – and potentially as destructive …With impeccable timing, Smashwords announced its hook-up with the iPad, by which ‘unpublished authors can sell their work on the Apple iPad at virtually no cost’, according to Dean Takahashi at Digital Beat. To wit:
“We are living through a moment when all the balls have been thrown in the air and no one is sure where they will land. In the digital age, will publishers and agents survive in their current form? Derek Johns argues that “authors need agents as first readers and financial advisers” and someone will have to collate and distribute books whether in bound or ebook form. But will they? How long can it be before Tesco (which already has a 10 per cent share of the book market) stops dealing with fussy publishers and brands its own books? The ebook is also changing things dramatically. The iPad arrives in this country next month and looks set to put the Sony Reader out of commission. Perhaps more significantly, ebooks will allow writers to bypass agents, publishers and bookshops by launching their work on the web or exchanging it quickly among themselves. The extra costs involved in manufacturing books will inevitably come to make them seem a luxury and make the bound book as obsolete as vinyl.
“Without some form of institutional support, there is a risk that only the trashy and the brilliant will thrive. That might sound like a bracingly efficient way of doing things, but the wonder of books is that no one can ever be sure how important they might be – or who might start slowly and then turn, eventually, into a genius. The careers of many authors show that the mercurial and the eccentric often take a long time to be appreciated. Abolishing the gatekeepers – however excessive or peculiar they may be – will not help reveal all those hidden talents to public view. Instead, the danger is our bookshelves will come to resemble a long line of branded baked beans.” – Sameer Rahim
“Smashwords, a site where writers can publish their own e-books, said today it has signed a distribution deal with Apple to put its books into the iPad iBookstore. Mark Coker, chief executive of Smashwords, said in an email to authors that his company has been working on the deal ever since the iPad was announced. And, yes, this means that unpublished authors can sell their work on the Apple iPad at virtually no cost.” – Dean TakahashiThe next couple of years are going to very interesting indeed, people. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride …