Over the past 10 years, we have seen a revolution in the book publishing industry as significant as the Gutenberg press in the 15th century.
Digital publishing is threatening to be the new normal. This breakthrough and the digital reader have hit the staid book publishing industry like an earthquake. Aftershocks throughout the book business are still taking place as publishers search for safe ground.
Think about this monumental shift: Until 2000, publishers stored books in warehouses waiting to be sold. If books were overstocked, they sold as "remainders" for a pittance. For the most part, unless you were an accomplished writer, publishers took few chances with newcomers.
Now, prospective writers have a real chance to be published. A mom or dad interested in doing a family history; a fledgling poet who would like to publish her verses; a veteran home from Afghanistan or Iraq who wants to write about it; a grandfather or grandmother considering a memoir; a person who has found God after a long search; all are now able to publish a digital book without the old-time publisher giving approval.
New authors are able to be published on demand, one book at a time or 1,000 at a time and ready in a matter of days. The demand for digital books has skyrocketed because electronic readers, like Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, the Sony reader and others now offer a quality reading experience. Color will soon be available on almost all readers.
E-book readers hold up to 1,400 books. These readers fit into people's pockets everywhere they travel: on trains, planes and buses. You can sit at home and shop in the Kindle store with your reader, for example, and download a book in seconds. In fact, Amazon.com is now selling more e-books than physical books on its website. It is offering close to a million books. And although the company doesn't give any figures, the number of sales is said to be in the millions.
As if to punctuate this point, Publishing Perspectives indicated in its October 2011 newsletter that "both Nielsen BookScan and the Association of American Publishers reported that print sales in the USA continue to fall as e-book sales are rising. The AAP figures showed that print sales declined by 25 percent across all segments in the first two months of 2011, while e-book sales rose by 18.4 percent."
Not all of this is progress. Whenever a huge technological change takes place, it causes trouble. Physical print book publishers are taking a beating and trying to figure out how to cash in on an inevitable shift in the industry. And, truth be told, reading an e-book isn't always as enjoyable as reading a physical book, at least not at first. But the convenience and reduced cost are motivators to learn!
To that point: I wouldn't make the argument that it is simple to publish a book electronically. The writer who has a story to tell needs to have rudimentary skills with a computer. That said, publishing a book with amazon.com isn't hard to do. In fact, there are many other venues that the prospective writer might choose.
For example, recently I uploaded a 300-page e-book to amazon.com called "Twice-Told Tales: The American Scene, 1986 - 2011." It's a collection of book reviews, short stories and occasional pieces. It was the fifth e-book that I put on sale last year.
Amazon makes it easy to publish. It has a video to watch online, enabling you to anticipate the steps you will take in uploading your print copy. When I decided to publish my reviews and articles that appeared earlier in The Buffalo News, the Boston Globe, the Dublin Review of Books, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Irish Jesuit publication Studies over the past 25 years, it was easy as a piece of cake.
If you are a writer who has written for various publications, the first thing you must do is to get electronic copies of your work from the outlets that published it. This can usually be done by going online and contacting the venues and requesting downloads of material with your byline. (Sometimes this costs a few dollars.) Once this is done, the writer reviews his articles and puts them in the required form enabling them to be uploaded. Voila! Within a couple of days, an e-book is available to be purchased, downloaded and read by new readers.
In fact, the route I've taken is a format that other journalists may use -- once they realize it's available -- because they will be able to put all of their writing in one place into an electronic format at very little cost. If you've written many hundreds of articles over a number of years, there's an advantage in having them chronologically laid out, all in one place and available to yourself or for sale for those who missed them the first time around. So, first-timer or seasoned pro, how do you publish an e-book? One way is to click on Kindle Publishing Programs. When you do, here's the copy that comes up for you to read:
Kindle Publishing Programs
Thank you for your interest in Amazon Kindle's Publishing Program. All the tools to create and upload your content are free of charge. Once you make your titles available for Amazon Kindle, you'll receive payments for every title sold. Depending on the number of publications you'd like to convert, your technical expertise and your existing relationship with Amazon, there are several ways to make your content available:
If you are a publisher or author, you can make your books available electronically using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). All you need to get started is your book in digital format, e.g., word, html, text, etc.
*It's free, and you can choose our 70 percent royalty option. No sign-up fee, no publishing fee, no any fee. And you keep 70 percent of the sale for qualifying titles.
*Publish once, sell everywhere. Sell automatically on Kindle, iPad, iPhone, PC, Mac, Blackberry and Android phones.
*Connect with the author community. We host lively author forums on our community pages at http://forums.kindledirectpublishing.com.
*Kindle Singles. Publishers interested in submitting their KDP-published short content for consideration as a Kindle Single should email email@example.com with a description of the content, the ASIN of the title in the Kindle Store and their KDP account email address.
*If you have an Amazon.com account, you're already signed up with Kindle Direct Publishing. Start publishing now!
Reader, you decide whether you want to publish an e-book or not. You have a number of good e-book publishing programs to choose from that include Barnes & Nobel Pubit!, Xlibris.com and others. You can even scroll through a website devoted to electronic publishing, called "Top E-book Publishers and E-Book Publishing Services." I must say that I had no problem working with Amazon, one of the leaders in the field.
What's the easiest way to get a feel for the new e-book format? Google an author's name whose work you enjoy on the Internet. Make sure you use parentheses around the name of the writer. Then go to the amazon.come-book list and type in your author's name. A list ofe-books by your favorite author pops up, each at a reduced cost for your review.
So take a deep breath and give the e-book world a try. There's a whole new world of writing and reading out there for you to explore.
Michael D. Langan is a frequent News reviewer of books about English literature and history. He is the author of two memoirs, "When I Was A Boy" and "Tapped Out: A Worker's Memoir of Bethlehem Steel's Rise and Demise in Western New York."