When Amazon released the first Kindle in 2007, the device was hailed as a game-changer. Its sleek form factor begged to become a part of your morning commute. Its expansive grayscale screen demanded you discard your physical media. Its online library jockeyed noisily for you to join a digital revolution. Only three years later, the e-book industry has proven robust and lucrative, with Kindle-alternatives like Barnes & Nobles’ “Nook” expanding the menu of digitized media options.
However, with the rise of the e-book came the fall of writers’ paychecks; literary authors, in particular, are seeing paltry advances and lower profits for their potential masterpieces. Whereas in decades past ingenious works-in-progress would earn their authors sizable advances, many attempting to craft ground-breaking material today find it difficult to make a living by writing fiction.
Although this is undoubtedly an unfortunate trend, it requires creativity and action on the part of the author, not a fixation with eras past. The trend toward e-books is here to stay, and authors who pretend otherwise would do well to embrace this reality.
Fortunately, the same electronic era that has stripped authors of some of their revenue stream has also provided them with tools to increase their visibility and get word of their new releases to the public. Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube offer low-cost ways to help authors become their own hype machines. Internet strategies like these democratize publicity as a resource, and authors should strongly consider publishing and marketing methods that don’t leave them vulnerable to the profit-sharing inclinations of publishers.
These suggestions are not meant to ignore the plight of the book industry. In an ideal world, publishers could afford to give authors more of the profit, but expecting that they will do so anytime soon is unrealistic. Many traditional publishers are suffering from decreased book sales and revenue, and have yet to make substantial changes to the industry model. They too must acknowledge the changing times and reconsider their publishing methods in an age where e-books represent an entirely new and different beast.
The e-book revolution is an exciting change that introduces a cheap, paperless, and widely accessible alternative to traditional print media. It is clearly good for the environment and benefits society as a whole by increasing access to texts. If authors embrace it and explore novel solutions to their monetary woes, it will kindle an entirely new era of publishing, with widespread benefits.
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