Well, here we are, living in the technological present that makes everyone’s daily life fodder for the social networks. We may not be as important as we think we are, but books surely are. We need them for knowledge, entertainment, idea exchange and a lot more than we are really aware of. Whether it’s a bound book or a Kindle in your hand, reading imparts a special satisfaction doesn’t it?
But there’s a delivery medium issue that most of us intellectual content consumers may be ignoring. Digital publishing has presented both opportunities and drawbacks that must be realized, considered and dealt with. Now, it seems, everyone can be an author and self-publish. That’s great. It even fosters our right of free speech! However, it increases the reader’s choices to a mind-boggling degree, shakes up the established book industry and maybe even disrupts the economy. Changes never come easily and often they create problems that temper the positive impact of their improvements.
As more of us go happily along with the digital book revolution, content with the ease of purchase and reading, we may not pause to think of the ramifications of this change-over from traditional paper-and-ink books.
It’s not only the publishers and authors we should consider. There are many others in the publishing chain: paper manufacturers, printers, binders, transporters, warehousers, stock clerks, wholesalers and retailers, just to name those that quickly come to mind. In a totally digital world, these people will suffer. All job losses hurt this country. So where are the advantages? The balances?
First of all, digital publishing offers a great reduction in overhead costs. Judging from an NYTimes.com breakdown (reprinted March 1, 2010), publisher profits can remain relatively the same, as digital books reduce the price for consumers ($26.00 to $9.99 in The New York Time’s chart), but the author royalties will decrease, despite the savings in production costs. And if this trend continues, workers will have to retrain, adjust to the new market or leave the workforce by attrition or by necessity. Fortunately for them, America doesn’t seem totally ready to abandon paper-and-ink books for e-readers, DVD movies for streamed video and community public libraries or bookstores for website “shelves.” So maybe this slow transitional period is good for all of us. A balancing of choices should shake out in a decade or so, revealing just what is best for the people, the corporations and the economy.
Remember the prediction of the “paperless society”? Well, that’s probably just as probable in our lifetimes as a purely digital reading public. At Vellum Publishing, we say, “share the wealth and enjoy all of technology’s advances.” That’s why you’ll find some of our publications in both digital and bound versions. Check out our most recent dual-medium publication, Daniel VanTassel’s The Aries Obsession, when you have a chance. Happy reading!