Children’s Writing Weblog

Stop Being Afraid of E-Books

Posted on: December 17, 2010

I’m not a gadget geek, but I want the Nook. Unlike many of my author colleagues, I’ve never had an aversion to e-books, but I’ve also never had a burning desire to own an e-reader. But the Nook Color looks very cool, and I want it. I’m not a big fan of Christmas lists for adults, but this year I’ve got one and the Nook’s on it.

I am into instant gratification when it comes to books I want to read, portability, and downloading titles from the library without leaving my house. I also don’t buy the argument that e-books will be the death of publishing or literature. Maybe publishing as we’ve known it, but certainly not literature or books in general (as long as our definition of "books" remains fluid). And I think e-books are a boon for authors. Here’s why:

On November 30 I was watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Author Susan Casey was the guest, talking about her new book The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean. This is not a title I would likely ever pick up if I saw it on the shelves, but hearing the author describe the book, and hearing Stewart rave about it, made me want to read it. If I had an e-reader, I’d have purchased the e-book before the show was over. I can handle a $9.99 impulse buy, and I needed some bedtime reading.

But I didn’t have an e-reader (yet!) so my options were to go to the book store (the next day–if I had time–and fork over $27.95 plus tax for the hardcover, not a viable option when I had Christmas presents to buy), or order the book online (about $20 plus shipping) and wait for it to arrive. Or (most likely) I’d talk myself out of buying it altogether and order it from the library. It’s a new book, so I might not get it right away. And by the time it came in, my enthusiasm for reading it may have waned.

Which option benefits the author the most?

Considering that most publishers are giving fairer, higher royalty rates on e-books than in the past, and the e-book price point doesn’t have nearly the sticker shock of the hardcover, I’d think authors would demand that all their books be available in both formats. I still love hardcover books, but if I want to try out a new author or genre, have a more portable option, or get it immediately, e-books are a must. And if you’re self-publishing, it’s a no-brainer. The cost for producing an e-book is minuscule compared to a hardcover. If a parent’s buying books for three different kids, this is a huge consideration.

The key is in the marketing. I discover new fiction through print reviews and blogs, but I tend to find out about nonfiction via radio and television interviews. If I hear an author passionately talking about her subject, I want to read the book. And while not every author can be on The Daily Show, numerous radio and smaller television interview shows (local and national) book authors as guests. One good interview is all you need to get the ball rolling.

I’m convinced that we’ll always have hardcover and paperback books, because so many readers love the weight of the book on their lap and the feel of turning the page. I do too. But I think e-books deserve as much respect and an equal place in the market. If you shun e-books, you’re losing your impulse buyers, and customers who want to try you out for less money before investing in your hardcover books. I don’t know any authors who would willingly give up that kind of cash.

Interested in learning how to write a book and send it to children’s book publishers? Come on over to The CBI Clubhouse for audios, videos, insider writing tips and much, much more!

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