The internet has changed the way we research and shop for books. Amazon.com has been hugely successful and allowed millions of customers around the world to shop for books not available on mainstream retailer shelves. Now self publishing is cutting out the middle man. And it’s not just books that are doing it…
A few years ago if you asked me about eBooks I would have told you that they were a flawed concept. Face it, there’s a reason we don’t sit at our computer to read books. The screen hurts our eyes after long periods of time. Sans-Serif fonts, while easier to read on paper, are difficult on the web, and we have better things to do on the computer than to read a whole book.
Books get read– by most people– when the power is out or we have a place to take them. Sure, some great books start off that way and then demand to be devoured in one sitting. Sure, we don’t care where we read the latest Harry Potter book, so long as we find out what happens. Sure, some people love to read more than watch TV and browse the internet. We still have to realize that the average American doesn’t read as much as they did 100 years ago.
And then there’s the satisfaction of putting your finger in the page to see how far you’ve read. That still can’t be replaced.
But eBooks have become much better realized since the introduction of the Sony Reader and the Kindle. These two devices were the first to really make mainstream portable readers work. The Reader and the Kindle used digital ink, which made books easy to read because there was no backlight. The flaw of the Reader? There weren’t that many books available on it and it was too easy to pirate. Target sold Sony Readers for years and then stopped and only started carrying them again after the Kindle explosion, so I’m going to give credit for the eBook revolution to the Kindle.
Now we have the iBook (because iPads are just cool) and the Nook. These were great because they brought color to publish magazines and graphic novels. Their shortcoming is in eye strain and battery life.
When I buy a book on my Kindle I can download it instantly. Smart publishers made it cheaper and I can take it anywhere without worrying about the pages getting wrinkled. The best parts?
- I can look up definitions with a click. That would have been really helpful while I was wondering what the heck akimbo meant reading The Invisible Man
- I can turn pages with one button. No more holding the book open with my elbow while trying to eat a sandwich and read!
- I can carry a library in a tiny leather folio. My “guest room” is full of packed book cases and we can’t fit the airbed for actual guests!
Now Amazon has made it really easy for authors to publish to the Kindle (and Nook and iBook have followed along). Authors can control everything about their book and profit or choose to give it away for free (which is a great tool for marketing other products!) Anyone can be their own publisher without having to shop around for a literary agent.
The process of selling a book used to involve writing pitches and hoping someone even wanted to read your manuscript. Then, if they even liked it, you signed over control to a company who didn’t really care about your book. Books are seen by large publishers as a diversified investment portfolio and they really only care about the lucky book that takes off. Further, authors lose control of design and marketing. You can’t even dictate what age/demographic you intended to pitch to.
Sure, it’s nice to be in a retail store and it’s great to have a publishing house to pay for ads, but with the internet marketing can be done more effectively than TV and Newspaper ads and for little or no money at all (this book is awesome.)
The Newspaper is dying. Many Newspapers are already dead! Why? Well, the printed paper was great for hundreds of years, but the flaws of the newspaper have been solved by the internet.
- Printed newspapers kill trees!
- Printing costs money!
- Researching past news events required sorting through library archives
- Newspapers accumulate a lot of trash
- Delivery costs money
- Newspapers are full of a wide variety of stories to appeal to the masses
Digital papers can be updated without printing cost. Bandwidth and paying a webmaster are nothing compared to the cost of printing, facilities, and distribution! People from all over the world can access your paper now, instead of just a local market.
It’s easy to browse an online paper and then look up unfamiliar events in the archive. You can find every archived article with a few mouse clicks and a well-chosen search term.
You don’t have to throw anything away (now, this may stink for people who do a lot of crafts and miss having cheap drop-cloths).
You can sign up for RSS feeds from specialized news outlets to read about events you want to read about. Don’t care to know who won American idol? You no longer need to weed through those kinds of stories to get the real information you want.
The death of the newspaper and the easy access of the internet has changed the way news releases are written. Instead of news releases being filtered by reporters and delivered as articles in newspapers, users can read news releases directly from the source!
Blogs are Replacing Magazines
Magazines used to be where we turned for entertainment reading. But really, who likes paying $4-15 for a piece of casual reading full of ads? Magazines these days are filled with so many ads that it’s hard to find the articles.
People used to publish Zines, independent magazines. They weren’t easy to get out there and you had a limited market. Now anyone with something to say (or any group) can start a blog. Readers can follow it for free (once again, RSS is king) and you can amass regular followers.
Magazines suffered from many of the pitfalls of traditional Newspapers and now Blogs have replaced them. GameInformer? I’ll just go to IGN. Entertainment Weekly? Just Jared gives me the information faster!
Blogs allow word of mouth information to spread faster and allow any writer to publish their own periodicals for free.
Heard of The Guild? If you haven’t, you may soon be part of a minority. It’s a web series starring Felicia Day and now Will Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) that is free for viewing on the internet and XBoxLive. It’s hysterical but it targets a very niche group of viewers– outcast gamers.
The web series allows small budget productions to be seen around the world on YouTube, Google Video, Vimeo, iTunes, etc. They are generally bite-sized and mostly comedies, but they are opening a new door in entertainment.
During the writer’s strike, Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and his brother Jed got Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day, and Nathan Fillion (Castle) to do a 3 part web series that has a sequel in production and is available on DVD and Blu Ray. If you’re a nerd and you don’t know Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, you’re a Pariah.
Web Shows can even use create space to sell DVDs and The Guild got a bigger budget because it was picked up by the smart people running XBox Live.
Traditional TV will not go out for a long time, but smart marketers are supplementing popular shows (like The Office) with webisodes and nearly everything that runs on TV is available online one day to one week later.
One web show even got copied by MTV.
This is the final point for this article. Even the games you buy in a store have already been effected by this revolution. Nintendo is getting out of the casual gaming market with the Wii 2 because the iTouch/iPhone is too hard to compete with. How can a 50 dollar game compete with Plants vs Zombies for $2? Games aren’t even finished anymore. If you buy an RPG for the X-Box360 or the PS3, it’s an expectation that you will have to download patches.
Digital distribution makes it worthwhile to sell cheap, short games. Independent developers can publish their work to the iTunes store for cheap or for free!
Yes, hardcore gaming like Mass Effect and Oblivion will still remain on the console for a long time, but you can even buy DLC (download content) to expand those games.
There have been a few major setbacks in this market. Sony has also made the fatal flaw of making electronic versions of their games (which can’t be resold or loaned, cost nothing to ship, and have no physical purchase in hand) cost the same as hard copies. Then Sony was hacked this past week and I have to order a new debit card in case my information was stolen. We know Amazon has very tight security, as eSales are their business. True, my information could have been stolen from my bank, but after constantly having to update our account and then this hiccup, we’ll be watching Netflix through my Wii from now on. Sony will have to step up security or they will lose consumer confidence.
Then there’s the troubling terms of the Android store that, among other problems [link], require that the price for any game not exceed the lowest price in its history (you can’t have a limited time promotional price because you would have to make that your permanent price).
ePublishing and eDistribution are still very new and so there are a few flaws to work out. The Newspaper is circling the drain and Amanda Hocking has already proven that you can get rich as an indie writer. Publishing houses are crying that this is the apocalypse, but the rest of us should see it as a thing of beauty. The ePublishing revolution is cutting out the middleman. If we play it smart, we could see a greater diversity in our media and receive it economically without wasting so many resources like paper and plastic.