Southern Books

eBooks are the future – whether you like it or not

On Oct. 1, my new mystery/suspense novel, Remain In Light, was released as an eBook. My publisher, Vanilla Heart, is trying a “digital first” strategy with new titles and will follow up with a print edition in January.

Although I’ve fully embraced the eBook revolution, it’s still weird not to have a physical book to hold in my hand. The marketing campaign for Remain In Light has been done completely through social media (Facebook, Twitter, e-newsletter blast and blogs). This is the new reality facing authors today, whether we like it or not.

Statistics show that 1 in 6 Americans now owns some type of eReader, according to a recent article in Publishers Weekly. With the recent announcement of the new line of inexpensive Amazon Kindles, expect that number to grow rapidly.

eBook sales rose 167 percent in June 2011, according to the Association of American Publishers and eBooks are now outselling print and hardbacks at Amazon, according to the company. Many independent bookstores in Atlanta, including Outwrite Books in Midtown, are now offering eBooks to customers via their websites.

And you might have heard that a number of authors (most famously Amanda Hocking) are now millionaires just by uploading their own eBooks to Amazon, which removes agents and publishers completely from the equation.

I decided to talk to a few of my fellow authors and get their thoughts on having their work available as eBooks and whether they’ve embraced the future.

Jessica Handler

Jessica Handler, author of the memoir Invisible Sisters (it’s deservedly on the 2010 list of Books All Georgians Should Read), doesn’t own an eReader, but has seen her book on other people’s devices. “I’m excited to see Invisible Sisters in anyone’s hands, in any form,” she said.

Handler said if indie bookstores have to sell eBooks to survive then so be it. “I’m still so attached to the bookstore experience; browsing, chatting, handing over actual money to a real person and leaving with a real tangible thing in my hands,” she said. “However, as an author who loves indie bookstores and wants to encourage reading, any revenue stream that serves the indie store and the author, and any way to make reading accessible to the public, is a benefit to the industry.”

Bestselling author Tayari Jones has her eReader in her bag while she’s on a 50-city tour for her latest novel, Silver Sparrow. “I can’t carry around books around, but nothing brings me more comfort in a hotel room like a good book, so an eReader is perfect while I’m on the road.”

Tayari Jones

Jones has also downloaded Silver Sparrow onto her eReader and often reads from it. “Sometimes during a radio interview, I will be asked to read and I always have the book handy on my eReader.”

Man Martin’s latest novel, Paradise Dogs is out now and he’s grateful for the eBook. His first novel, Days of the Endless Corvette, isn’t available in digital format and he said that cuts off readers who have gone all eBook. “As far as I’m concerned I’m happy to see my work available in as many formats as possible: print, electronic, audio, semaphore, cuneiform, bring it on,” he said.

Online magazine TechCrunch predicted that bookstores would be virtually nonexistent by 2018, but I disagree with that “dystopian” outlook. Tapes and CDs were expected to be the death of records, but vinyl is still around and actually having a bit of resurgence. I think printed books are going the way of vinyl, still viable and still available but more for the collector and connoisseur. I own hundreds and hundreds of books and no one can make me give them up. That said, I’ve pre-ordered the new Kindle Fire and itching to have it in my hands.

Man Martin

Martin agreed that printed books are becoming marginalized, but they won’t disappear. “People will keep reading books; there are troglodytes like me who just love the weight of a book in their hands, the sight of a fat stack of books on the bedside table, the smell and sound of books.”

Many publishers are duking it out with Amazon and other retailers over price points for eBooks. The average price for an eBook is $9.99 and publishers are trying to hold the line or raise it to net more profit.

Grant Jerkins, author of the forthcoming thriller At the End of the Road, said readers are more willing to take a chance on a book when it’s $10 or less. Many authors (including those aforementioned millionaires) are selling books for a mere 99 cents each.  “Keeping the eBooks inexpensive is great for impulse purchases,” Jerkins said. “Why not take a chance?”

Grant Jerkins

Jerkins was given a Kindle as a Christmas gift last year and he’s a convert. “I love books and I love gadgets, so I really wanted one. I have to say that I genuinely enjoy reading on it. And it’s indispensable for impulse buys, for those times when you hear about a great book and you can literally have it placed in your hands in mere seconds.”

That sentiment is key to why eBooks have risen so quickly in popularity. Consumers like instant gratification and being able to download an entire novel or memoir in a minute from the comfort of your living room is a pretty compelling argument.

I held out on actually reading eBooks for as long as possible, but once I bought an iPhone and the Kindle app was available for free, I couldn’t resist any longer. I’ve now read two eBooks on my phone and, yes, I downloaded Remain In Light the day it was released. Adapt or die.

###
Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley is the editor of Atlanta INtown and the author of two novels, Conquering Venus and Remain In Light. His poetry collections include Better To Travel and the recently reissued Slow To Burn.  For more, visit www.collinkelley.com.