Saturday, September 18, 2010

David Morrell and the World Goes Digital

The Los Angeles Times published an interesting article/interview about David Morrell's decision to publish his upcoming novel The Naked Edge as an Amazon Kindle exclusive. In the interview portion of the article Morrell makes some good points about the benefits, for the author or owner of the copyright, to choose an eBook only format: 1) the reach of the product is higher--instead of reaching a potential audience of a few hundred million in four or five countries, the book can be sold instantly in over 100 countries; 2) the overhead costs are zero--no printing, warehousing, returns, etc.; and 3) he controls the copyright.

The eBook business model has the potential to change the publishing world as we know it. There are, and will continue to be, more quality books available: both older and out-print titles and never-before published titles by professional writers that, for whatever reason, never found a traditional publisher. It will enable the author to have more control over her body of work, and in a very real sense, give her a stronger bargaining position with traditional publishers because there is the option to self publish and reach a large marketplace without dealing with the headache of distribution.

The authors will also reap higher benefits by taking a significantly larger portion of the revenue, Amazon pays royalties in the neighborhood of 70% of gross, and the with the introduction of eBook readers that are usable, affordable and accepted on a mass scale the business model is viable. It is an exciting change in an industry that has been less than vibrant in the last few decades, but it, like all change, will be beneficial for some and disastrous for others. The big publishing houses have the most to lose.

If the eBook trend continues, and why wouldn't it, the traditional publishers have little to offer except editors. A service that is extremely valuable, but can be done without the extraordinary overhead that large business needs to operate; think a lone, experienced editor, in his study working for piece work farmed out by both new and established writers. Or maybe even an editor hired by a cooperative created by a group of writers. The possibilities are unlimited and, for good or bad, very much like traditional self-publishing--what will it do to the writer's organizations like MWA, HWA, SFWA, etc? How will it affect brick-and-mortar bookstores? Badly, no doubt, for both.

The future is an uncharted place. It is anticipated with trepidation, fear and hope. The eBook is a device that I have fought against, internally at least, but now give a grudging acceptance. It is here and offers something new and interesting to, maybe, invigorate an industry that has grown tired from abuse and lack of interest. Is it the "new thing" that will save story-telling, in prose form, or will it prove to be a short-lived trend? Only time will tell, but at least the question brings some hope to everyone who enjoys a good story.

To read the LA Times article click Here.


  1. I prefer the look, smell, feel, and sound of real books myself...but I am merely another varmit crushed beneath the rumbling wheel of electronic progression. Besides, it could be the only shot I have at getting "published". I suppose we should just be glad that people still read at all...that is, until the Kindle reads to use like a see-and-say. Lord have mercy, it would be like a Stephen Hawking narration.

  2. A coworker of mine purchased a Kindle last week and it will read the book. It sounds like a computer and is, essentially, unlistenable (a word?), but the thing actually reads.

    Technology is the best and worst of what we are as humans. A volatile and certain dirty greatness.