by Gina Burgess
In the New Yorker, there’s a good article: Publish or Perish. The future of publishing is discussed, and Russ Grandinette of Amazon makes a very good point. “In [my] view, book publishers—like executives in other media—are making the same mistake the railroad companies made more than a century ago: thinking they were in the train business rather than the transportation business. To thrive, [I] believe publishers have to reimagine the book as multimedia entertainment.”
The New Yorker also points out, “David Rosenthal, the publisher of Simon & Schuster, says that his company is racing ‘to embed audio and video and other value-added features in e-books. It could be an author discussing his book, or a clip from a movie that touches on the book’s topic.’ The other major publishers are working on similar projects, experimenting with music, video from news clips, and animation. Publishers hope that consumers will be willing to pay more for the added features. The iPad, Rosenthal says, ‘has opened up the possibility that we are no longer dealing with a static book. You have tremendous possibilities.’”
Has anyone read one of these digital entertainment books? You get a taste of it in Dean Koontz’ short story Ricochet Joe, offered from Amazon Prime. The images and “action” acutely remind me of Batman and Robin’s “Bang” and “Pow!” While it is interesting in the same way an escalator is fascinating to a boy that’s never seen one, to me, it wears thin after a couple of chapters. Just like for the boy, the novelty wears off.
The article goes on to point out that several of these big publishers seem to think that multi-media eBooks will be cheaper to produce than printed books. While I agree there’s a great deal of merit in not having to have a huge warehouse (or garage) for books, no paper and ink costs, what about the graphic design costs and technical maintenance costs? These big publishers seem to think that making a deal with Steve Jobs to use iTunes for eBook publishing, but are they actually making a deal with the “devil?”
Back in 2009, Stephen R. Covey made a publishing rights deal with Amazon to sell his famous book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People where he received almost half the profits. But Simon & Schuster launched Covey on his path to fame and fortune. This is the same kind of deal every indie author makes when using CreateSpace.
However, I’m wondering how soon authors need to bend toward this kind of entertainment. Perhaps while Baby Boomers are still the majority of the purchasing power authors won’t find it necessary to litter their eBooks with pictures, moving images, and embedded audio. We Baby Boomers are attached to our paper books, and we don’t use all those fancy apps. But I do see the day when the digital native will commandeer the purchasing power and the wave of the future will splash over and inundate the publishing world.
If the big five publishers are “racing” to add more pizazz to their e-books ostensibly so that they can raise the price of the ebook at Amazon and other online retailers, where does that leave the indie published eBook? Will pricing reflect value? Will indie published eBooks still be the entrée of the book reader’s menu?
What do you think? Should authors beware and forearmed? Should indie authors dive into this digital world while holding their noses?