Before James Gutenberg invented the printing press, people copied books by hand. Each book was costly, rare, and unavailable to most. The printing press made books, newspapers, and magazines available to everybody.
Not everyone embraced the printing press at first. It took one hundred years before acceptance spread throughout Europe. Literacy and information increased around the world. Not everyone was happy with the change. Those who made a living hand writing books lost their jobs. Anyone still trying to compete with hand written books went out of business because it was impossible to compete.
Now, in the 21st Century, e-books are pushing out traditional booksellers and publishers. Amazon became the early larder in publishing and selling e-books. They created the Kindle for customers to read e-books. This has radically changed how books are sold and read.
First, the book distributers and many bookstores are no longer needed. Twenty years ago when you wanted a book you would go to the store, place an order, and pick up the book in a week or so. Then, Amazon changed the process. They created an online store where we ordered from home and waited for the delivery.
Now, many customers just buy an e-version and download it to have instant access. There is no delivery charge and no waiting. Amazon and other e-book sellers save money because they have no inventory expense, handling cost, or printing cost.
This has opened up doors for new authors, especially those who struggle to obtain a traditional publishing arrangement. An author can start selling e-books with little expense. The publisher as gatekeeper is fast disappearing. While most self-published e-books do not generate significant sales, each author has the opportunity to create and sell content. Their marketing efforts and the marketplace direct their future success.
Another advantage e-publishing brings is that it keeps more money in an author’s pocket. For example, a traditional publishing agreement may give an author 10-15% royalty on the wholesale selling price and typically 50% of the cover price. A $15 dollar book may generate $1.10 for the author. The same book, sold as an e-book on Amazon at $2.99, generates $2.09 at a standard 70% royalty rate. E-books sold directly from an author’s website generate 100% return.
Customers gain lower prices and have more content available to them. A shopper can locate and buy more specialized information than was previously available. Amazon sells more Kindle books than print books. Customers vote with their actions.
Some have attacked Amazon and other e-bookstores for predatory pricing. They believe that selling content for $2-$4 is too low. My experience is that I may take a chance on a $2 e-book while passing on a $25 book. Amazon has grown its business by selling a large variety of products cheaply.
Personally, I still like traditional books and enjoy browsing a good bookstore. However, I have been buying e-books to save money or get content fast. While no one wants to go back to hand-copied books, there is the possibility that in the future we will not want to go back to the hard copy books.
Scripture reminds us that “The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.” (2 Samuel 3:1, NIV) Most trends take time. I predict that over time the impact of e-books will become stronger while traditional books will become weaker.
Steve Marr, Your Christian Business Coach
See Steve's e-books: http://bit.ly/wlS7Xw