Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Conf 615: Books dead or alive

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“I’m on the publishers’ side,” says the author Lionel Shriver, whose novel We Need to Talk About Kevin won the Orange prize in 2005. Her principal US publisher, HarperCollins, holds the digital rights to her eight published titles.
“If a publisher has worked hard to keep your work in print, and consistently marketed it, and built up an author’s brand, that should be rewarded. Anything that upholds the value of the physical book gets my support.”
Quite right. But for new authors and those mid-listers (of which I suppose I'm one) the arrival of the ebook can only be good news.

I love real books as passionately as anybody. Borders' closing down sale in Hammersmith last week, with everything, including the shelving, piled up like the dregs of a jumble sale, was a very sad sight. The thought of public libraries disappearing into a sea of screens is even worse. But I don't think that'll happen and I'm sure the smaller bookshops we all love so much will survive.

A few months ago I went to a debate Books - Dead or Alive at the Society of Authors. It was chaired by Margaret Drabble with Suzanne Baboneau, Publishing Director of Simon & Schuster and Richard Charkin, MD of Bloomsbury. Nobody denied the industry was going through a difficult time, but the consensus was that eBooks are another place for writing to exist. They'll have their place alongside traditional paperbacks and hardbacks rather than replace them. One author stood up and said he'd bought back the rights to his out of print novel to publish online. He wasn't only seeing it come alive again but was making a nice little income as well. Suzanne had done some research on the main users of eBooks in the US and found that the most frequent users are couples. One can read in bed with the lights out whilst the other sleeps. The obvious other main use will be for travel. Suzanne uses her eReader for reading submitted manuscripts on her commute, as I expect most editors and agents do now. Just think, one day the printing and posting of 3 chapters and SAE will be gone forever.
Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

3 comments:

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Hrithik said...

In haste, I'm just putting the finishing touches to my next non-fiction ebook. Should be ready for your preview download here in the next couple of days or so.


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