Friday, September 23, 2011

A Decade in Waiting

It's been a long wait.

Approximately ten years ago, I read about something called a Rocket e-Book (which actually was released in 1998). I also heard about the SoftBook. The idea sounded intriguing, but as far as I could tell, the general marketplace just was not purchasing them in any meaningful volume. In some cases, the e-reader price was prohibitively expensive, thus slowing mass adoption.

I figured that eventually someone would get the technology/cost issues right and that the obvious benefits of an e-reader would catch on with the masses. To think that you could reduce a whole bookshelf full of information into a tablet sized device sounded amazing. So, I waited.

And waited. And waited some more.

Then, just about the time I had forgotten about the idea of e-books (unless you count pdf files), the Kindle and the Nook took off. I first noticed a disruption in the way agents were handling queries (not replying, or having submitted a manuscript and then getting no reply) and stories appearing all over the web about e-books. Little did I know at the time how disruptive such technology would be.

But throughout this whole time I kept writing. Whatever the medium, I knew that someday I would find a way to get it in front of a larger audience. I even handsold some paperbacks a few years back with some success, although the price was too high per unit to keep doing that. I offered them for sale at a deep discount (nearly 50% off the POD price) because that put them on a level with mass market paperback prices. Book sales went briskly, but when it came to being able to order them online or in a bookstore, inevitably there was some sticker-shock involved.

Nowadays an author can easily put works up online and the mass distribution system is in place (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, etc.). The old argument that now the market will be "flooded with junk" only works if that is all that is being put online. If the author, however, strives to make a better book each time out, then readership will be found in time. Quality books may not always find a home, but quality writing plus mass distribution/easy access is a game changer.

For those of us who have steadily kept writing over the years, never giving up because they love the art of putting words to paper, this is a moment of opportunity. Likewise, for those of us who have been quietly stockpiling manuscripts, poems, and stories, the playing field suddenly looks a bit more level now.

My late uncle once told me I should "flood the market" with my writing. At the time, it sounded like an interesting idea, but I didn't see how that was even technologically possible. So I kept stockpiling material and kept pushing my stories along, stuffing them in boxes, storing them on disks, etc. Yet when I finally met someone with a Kindle reader, I realized it was time to stop stockpiling and start sharing.

Soon, yes, very soon, there will be a flood of books on the market, but understand this "flood" did not build up overnight. It has been a decade in waiting.

It's a new era indeed.

1 comment:

  1. So true. The field is levelling by popular demand and opportunity is knocking.