Bubble and Strife

In the same week that Publishers’ Weekly reports Amazon is estimated to have sold six million Kindle Fire Tablets in its fourth quarter,

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/devices/article/50424-estimate-puts-fire-sales-at-6-million.html

Ewan Morrison wonders if we’re heading for an epublishing bubble.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/30/self-e-publishing-bubble-ewan-morrison      He cites similarities in epublishing euphoria to the recent property, financial and credit bubbles, not to mention the dot.com boom and bust. And yes, epublishing does seem to be streaming ahead at an incredible rate. More and more people want to buy cheap(er) books and, paradoxically, more people want to make money from self publishing. But what happens when the price of your hard work (a decent, professionally written and edited novel isn’t produced in a few weeks) is pushed so far down you end up working for almost nothing? Or worse, writing beyond midnight so some corporate behemoth can sell your efforts for under 99p, take a large cut and give their executives a nice fat salary thank you very much. I won’t cry if that particular bubble bursts. If we want to read well-crafted, professionally produced books, we shouldn’t expect to get them for nothing.

I have faith that word of mouth will work for good ebooks just as it does for everything else. JK Rowling didn’t start off with a £million marketing budget. What sold her early books was that kids loved Harry Potter and told their friends about him.

So if there is a bubble – and there might be, because millions of us are in love with this new technology – it will burst. What would we be left with? Well, lots of ereaders and lots of books. A lot of books that won’t be read and some that will. Just as it ever was. Except this time we won’t have mountains of paper books to turn into slush. They’ll lie stillborn in the ether. E-readers will gather dust under the bed or in a cupboard and only be taken out when something good comes along. And it will. The Annual Academy Awards have handed twenty-one Oscars to films based on children’s books this year. From Hugo (The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick), to War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/50363- I know there are more great books out there.

Bubbles can grow and burst. Adults and children (and Hollywood) will always crave good books.

Kay Leitch

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