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Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Word is Light

I wrote this blog a year ago but I wanted to share it with RBRU today because its still fresh in my mind and eBooks and e-publishing are still finding their way. A few things have shifted this past year. We now know the Apple iPad was a hit. Kindles have risen as the dominant e-reader, eBooks sales are soaring but there are still plenty of unknowns on the horizon.

This is what I wrote in spring 2010:
This week was especially challenging to me as a writer. I have several WIPs going that are interconnected and demand I spend my limited brain cells juggling the action and the plot lines between them. If it works, it will be good. If it doesn’t I have three flops on my hands. The many self-edits and self-imposed revisions have planted more than a few doubts in my self-confidence. Some days I have to ask myself is the struggle to get e-published worth it?


The other day one of my dour friends sent me several articles from the New York Times stating that “best selling” authors on Kindle are actually having to give their books away for free to attract new readers, piracy is rampant and lots of other negative stuff. My friend titled the email “a depressing trend.”

Thanks “D” that’s just what I needed to hear this week.

Ten seconds later my best friend Teri sent me several emails about the new Apple Tablet multi-media, e-reader, which will be premiered today. She focused on how exciting it was and that it and future products like it will revolutionize reading and buying habits. She also sent several articles about e-publishing in general, which were incredibly positive. I felt as if she had sent me the antidote to the first dose of poison.

Then it occurred to me that this is the wild west of publishing and e-authors are genuine pioneers. A definitive business model for e-publishing, distribution and copyright protection has yet to emerge, but I’m certain it eventually will. The next several years will reshape the publishing industry for a generation and we get to be part of it. That’s an exciting thought.

Think of the first days of public publishing when kings, warlords or high priests ordered their names and deeds carved in megalithic monuments. It was big, labor intensive and required slaves or armies of devotees to get the job done—neither of which I have access to. Carved monoliths are definitely impressive but they’re not for everyone.

Next, cumbersome tablets were painstakingly carved in stone, clay or embossed on copper and stored in sacred places—more people are literate but it’s still tedious work.

Papyrus scrolls were more convenient than clay tablets but they’re incredibly fragile, yet the very fragileness of the material seems to encourage a burst of creativity. For the first time common craftspeople start creating poetry, love letters, illustrated text, ribald jokes and even pornography. For the first time practical and trivial human thoughts and desires are committed to writing and shared purely for entertainment.

When the Gutenberg press came along publishing became available to the masses. Pamphlets were all the rage and those humble, painstakingly handset publications eventually evolved into the first printed masterpiece the King James Bible, quickly followed by state propaganda and newspapers all of which literally changed the world. Over night everyone wanted to be a politician and now had the tools to do it.

Today the sheer volume of information, the weight of paper and the storage space it requires has brought us to the cusp of the next revolution. New publishing methods have always heralded the arrival of new content to publish.

Today we write with light. We take up no physical space. Digital publishing looks incredibly fragile and finite when compared to a carved block of stone, yet it is infinitely more powerful and travels at the speed of thought. An author can now share their most personal thoughts and fantasies with the world within seconds. Our ancestors would see this as undreamed of freedom and it’s worth facing a few bumps in the road as e-publishing figures itself out.

I think I’ll stick around for a while and hash out my issues with e-publishing.

Of special note: Johannes Gutenberg first business failure was a “mirror to catch the light of Holy relics” When that venture didn’t pan out he was forced to pay back investors with another invention he was working on—the movable type press. In light of the digital age I’m not so sure his first idea was a failure…

Where do you think the epublishing revolution is headed? What would you like to see happen next?

XXOO Katalina Leon


Angela Kay Austin said...

I'd like to see epublished authors receive the same respect as traditionally published authors. We work equally as hard, and have as much passion and committment.

Paris said...

Great post, Kat and timely a year later. I'm afraid it might be timely a year from now! I'd love to see a format developed that made piracy impossible.

Tina Donahue said...

Great blog, Kat - and congrats on your awesome review at "You Gotta Read" Reviews. Well-deserved!! :)

Linda Kage said...

I think I've read like 1 printed book this entire year, the rest have all been ebooks on my iPad. The only annoying aspect of ebooks is when the battery goes dead and you have to wait for your ereader to recharge before you can return to reading your story. The little internal dictionary is the bomb though. Want to know what a word means, just click on it and WOW, now you know.

Katalina Leon said...

I agree Angela 100%! As traditional print authors turn to e-publishing and e-authors turn to print on demand the playing field is getting muddled. It still comes down to who's a great storyteller?

Katalina Leon said...

Paris, piracy is biggest and only caveat against e-publishing!!!
The day that changes and authors can track and protect their copyrights will be a revolutionary day! The music industry has been paying attention to this problem and developed software to track and protect its product. I hope someday soon an eBook's content can be registered and tracked as well.

Katalina Leon said...

Thank you Tina. I love getting reviewed and it's especially sweet when an older book gets a little attention too.

Katalina Leon said...

Hi Linda, I wish I had a little internal battery and a clever dictionary to draw on... After they fix the e-readers maybe they'll improve the people? I could use an upgrade! lol

jean hart stewart said...

Intriquing post, and I wish I could look ahead a year or two. Piracy must eventually be solved, but I think it's gonna take a while. In the meantime, I'm addicted to the whole e-book process. My editors and publishers are all wonderful to work with, and I love the instant communication with them.

Katalina Leon said...

I'm with you Jean. I can't image waiting a year or more to publish after receiving a book contract. I also love that eBooks take up no space and cast a very soft footprint on the earth. This is just about as close as humanity has ever come to sharing a complete thought with a stranger. It quite amazing.

Kenzie Michaels said...

In the last two years, more of my friends are buying either the Kindle or the Nook, and now know how to read my books:) It also helped that the price came down...

Kenzie Michaels said...

In the last two years, more of my friends are buying either the Kindle or the Nook, and now know how to read my books:) It also helped that the price came down...

Kenzie Michaels said...

In the last two years, more of my friends are buying either the Kindle or the Nook, and now know how to read my books:) It also helped that the price came down...

Katalina Leon said...

Hi Kenzie, you really wanted to make your point 3X! lol
It's true there are more e-reader lover/converts every day and e-reader devices just keep getting better. They're quickly becoming an irresistible force to even those hardcore paper-lovers who swore to avoid eBooks forever.
PS in truth we may always have two formats. I want my cook books and art books in glossy quality print.

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