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The times, they are a changing...

Several months ago, I downloaded a picture book onto my iPhone.  I wanted to see how it looked.  The e-book is
Lula’s Brew by Elizabeth O. Dulemba.  It’s beautiful, and I’ve entertained kids and adults with it on airplanes and at conferences ever since. (There are now hundreds of picture book apps by the way.) My in-laws recently downloaded my novel The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones onto their Kindle.  It’s cool to see it in all sizes of fonts with just the touch of a button. And, of course, who hasn’t lusted for an iPad? Particularly when you see the beautiful backlit illustrations from Winnie the Pooh or the amazing interactive e-book Elements? The times, they are a changing.  
During one of the keynotes at Chautauqua, Stephen Roxburgh gave a thought provoking speech on the future of publishing. 
According to Stephen’s statistics,  
In the last three months, the sale of Amazon’s Kindle titles outpaced hardcovers, and not by a little. 143 Kindle titles were sold for every 100 hardcover titles, and if you narrow the time frame to the last month, it’s more like 180 Kindle titles for every 100 hardcovers.  The tipping point for e-book sales is here. And the sales of Kindles themselves have tripled since Amazon lowered the price to $189.  
Apple has sold three million iPads since they premiered in April, that’s one every 2.3 seconds according to CNN. 
Barnes and Noble is in the act with their Nook e-reader. And Borders is in the swing with its Kobo eReader. Take a look at Borders and Barnes and Nobel’s web sites. They are both touting their e-readers and e-books front and center.  
Opportunity and convenience for self-publishing is here.  Both Amazon and Barnes and Nobel offer publishing options.  And Stephen’s company namelos, an e-book publisher, is off and running with four titles, getting great reviews for their books, and just yesterday had Betsy Bird’s Fuse 8 musing if their title Departure Time by Truus Matti would make the short list for the National Book Award.   
In contrast, the traditional publishing market is consolidating, down to the big six:  
Hatchett Publishing, with imprints Little, Brown & Company, Grand Central, Orbit, and others
HarperCollins, with imprints HarperTeen, Greenwillow, HarperCollins Children’s Books and others
Macmillian, with imprints Henry Holt, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Roaring Brook, Feiwel & Friends, and others
Penquin, with imprints Dutton, Viking, Putnam, Philomel Books, and others
Random House, with imprints Doubleday, Knopf, Bantam Dell, Crown, and others
Simon and Schuster, with imprints Atheneum, Aladdin, Margaret K. McElderyy, and others.  
Traditional publishing has gone corporate.  Not a bad thing, but a fact. Editors can't make acquisitions without getting buy-in from editorial, marketing, sales, and finance. In a down economy, publishers have to consider their shareholders and business risk. What does all this mean to the writer/author?
We are moving to a model of author entrepreneurs.  As most of us already know, beyond writing a good book, you have to be willing to get out there and sell it.  Not many of us enjoy the luxury of full-blown marketing campaigns when we sell a manuscript to traditional publishers.  But the manuscripts are vetted with good editing (mostly), offered for review and preview by groups of opinion leader teachers, librarians, and children’s lit scholars, and distributed to libraries and booksellers everywhere.
With the new world of publishing, more of that responsibility may be pushed to writers. Writers may be hiring editors to work with them, while developing and implementing full scale marketing programs for their books on their own. But with distribution gatekeepers no longer part of the mix, writers may just find themselves gaining a bigger slice of the financial pie. Unfortunately, the financial formulas are in about as much flux as the e-books themselves right now. Just ask the Authors Guild, who is fighting much of the e-book royalty wars right now.
The pace of change is moving so quickly, most experts can’t even begin to guess what is happening. On the way home from Chautauqua, I read in the news about a $35 laptop being developed in India that looks pretty much like an iPad (with reassurances the price would be $10 with a year or two).  If there’s a $35 laptop, one can be pretty sure, there will be a $10 e-reader in our future.  

I really do think children's publishing will be the last hold out for a traditional model of development, design, and distribution.  But we can't ignore the revolution in technology that's swirling around us.  One thing is for sure, our young readers aren't ignoring it for a minute.
Oh, the places we’ll go!   But it’s going to be a wild ride.  


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Aug. 4th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the post. I provided a link for my readers @ All About the Books.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )