Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Will Destroy Bookstores, Publishers and Writers?

There's a lively little comment thread going over at Ed Gorman's blog reacting to his post about how many of the best selling books for the Kindle are free. Crime fiction writer Dave Zeltserman commented, “Didn't mean to delete my comment, which was about Matt's reasonable anger towards where the kindle will be taking us--death of bookstores, death of publishers, and eventually the death books, at least those written by professional authors (since there will be no way to make money with novels).”

I'm amazed at the apocalyptic alarmism about the imminent death of bookstores, publishing and professional writers caused by the introduction of the Kindle and other reading gadgets.

If the Kindle et al are selling as well as their proponents are claiming, it means that there are a surprisingly large number of people so enthusiastic about reading that they are willing to invest $200+ just to read books.

Where there are enthusiastic readers there is a robust market for books. Where there is a market for books, in any format, there are commercial opportunities to exploit textual content.

If walk-in bookstores are slowly supplanted by electronic only books, so what? Books will still be read, only in different ways.

Although Kindle owners might like all books to be free, it won't happen. Writing is a time intensive occupation that most people can't pursue if they aren't able to generate at least a subsistence income. There will always be a lot of cheap or even free ebooks from frustrated writers unable to interest reputable publishers in their books who utilized vanity presses and POD in the past. Most readers will ignore those books, as they do now.

With the flood of available content, there will remain a need for some system readers can rely upon to sift the dross from the gold. Right now, agents, publishers and the admittedly declining venues for reviews serve that function. The need for qualitative ratings will remain. Some system will arise to satisfy it.

I'm not scared about Amazon's prospects for world domination. It remains to be seen whether the Kindle, with its proprietary software, will conquer the ereader category. There are already alternatives to Amazon, like, where writers can make texts available in a variety of formats and set their own price. More such sites are likely to spring up. But, assuming that Amazon eventually becomes the sole publisher of books, they can only make a profit charging for them, and the talented writer will still have a publisher seeking to purchase their writing.

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