Thursday, July 29, 2010

So Saith Me

Oh Flower!
I wonder about a lot of things: what I'll have for dinner, if I'll have time for a nap, if girls still like paperdolls, do they still make paperdolls, whether or not the guy in the car ahead of me will ever stop changing radio stations and just drive for goodness sake, etc. There is one thing I wonder about more than any other thing. Where are readers going to come from?

You can't read any publication or listen to any news program without getting information overload about e-readers. They are tearing up and apart the publishing world, it's the death of books, their sales are gigantic, everyone is fighting over the e-rights to backlist titles, bookstores are worried, they will make you a better person, they will make you rot in Hell---whatever. I have yet to hear anything about how they will create new readers. So here's my question. Why is a New And Improved product being created for an already existing product in a no growth market? Riddle me that.

Set aside the iPad. There are too many other uses for that to consider it an e-reader in my opinion. It's more like a tiny laptop, catnip for gadget hounds. Calling an iPad an e-reader would be like saying that your pc or your cell phone is an e-reader. They can be the vehicles by which you download and read books but that is not what people buy them for.

So Kindle? Nook? Created by booksellers to keep their customers. Smart. If e-books are going to be all there is in the future it's better to be in a position to keep the reading consumers that you have now by being able to sell them the next new thing that can only be used at your store. I get it. However, where do Barnes and Noble and Amazon propose to get new customers? Publishers aren't going to provide them. They have no idea how to sell what they make let alone create new, life long readers.

Every few years there are titles that sell like the old hotcakes. Books like Angela's Ashes, The Da Vinci Code and in the separate once in a millennium category the Harry Potter series. Publishers latch onto books like those, hail them as the renaissance of reading and then crank out scads of copycats. No question titles like those pay the rent and put the kids through college but if they also created new, committed readers then books would be raking in the kind of cash that movies do and as we know they do not.

Anyway Publishers have a bigger problem as in who needs them? Do you think that if Stephen King decided to manufacture his own books that he would have any problem finding a distributor to get them to bookstores and bookstores to sell them? No he wouldn't. As for selling his books in the ebook format he could do that in a snap as well. Are there many Stephen Kings in the book world? No, but what he could do any writer could do and as soon as one Big Author jettisons his publisher to control it all himself the flood gates will be open.

So? New readers?

Happy and wondering

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