As an author, I am both terrified and thrilled by e-books.
I think the reason I am most terrified by e-books is because I saw the piracy that rampaged the music industry. I mean my students, most teens today (yep, I’ll stand by that statement; not all but many) just don’t view music as something the really ought to pay for. Sure, some of them buy music through iTunes and the such, but most of them just use Limewire (or something like it). And then they pass along the song to a friend and voila… off they go.
I am not even sure if they view this as an entirely illegal activity. To them, it’s, at worst, like jaywalking on a street that has no traffic. Are they really expected to follow the letter of the law when no one else is doing it and there is no real enforcement of the law anyway?
Paying, when it’s free, is for suckers.
Movies, too. Piracy has plucked billions from the people who make movies. A new release is available the same day it hits theaters. (Yep, Limewire, again; why can’t they shut them down?) And a DVD is available on the streets of L.A. before lunchtime on the day of a new release for five bucks. Movie tickets cost almost triple that for one person… a DVD in the living room can provide entertainment for 1, 3, 8 or 80… no problem!
And so, why not my books? I mean google already plans to scan them all anyway and post them online. (Not sure how they got the right to do with; the argument of being an online library seems frail to me… I mean libraries are not “for profit” companies that make money off of my content. They buy my book and then they loan it out. Google hasn’t bought a copy of my book and even if they buy one, why do they get to loan out 10 zillion at the same time? If a library wants to loan out 10 zillion copies, they have to re-lend the same book 10 zillion times. Google can do it simultaneously. Good thing I have agents and lawyers… though there’s supposedly a mass settlement, I think it’s gonna be in the courts for years.)
So e-books freak me out because my work can be so easily stolen… and the market to whom I am trying to sell my books has very little stigma about the illegal downloading of copyrighted materials.
Do that math and it’s a bit scary.
On the other hand, e-books mean more ways to access my books. And with more channels of distribution, there are greater potential audiences. People thought TV was going to kill movies and now TV has proven to be a a huge subsidiary revenue stream for movies to be re-sold once their run in theaters is done. Between HBO, DVD’s and Netflix, movies have so many additional streams of income – and so many more potential viewers of movies – that what was once feared as an enemy is now considered a great friend.
Perhaps this will be true of e-books for me as well? Perhaps piracy will not win the day in the e-book market and e-books will prove to be my best financial friend in ways I still can’t even see right now.
Do I see my books in paper form disappearing? Certainly not for quite some time. (And I mean QUITE some time!) Do I see my e-book sales growing? Well, considering that none of my books are yet available in e-book format there’s really only one way sales can go: up! (Note: My agency has been holding back the rights for a few years – for many of their clients – in order to make us a fair deal… one that doesn’t leave us screwed in a way like the writers in Hollywood got screwed when they signed away VHS tape rights for practically no royalties because, at the time, no one ever thought that VCRs would ever really be a factor in the world of film-making. A boffo misjudgment that cost Hollywood writers hundreds of millions in royalties over the subsequent decades.)
So yes, I am spooked but yes, I am thrilled. E-book sales might one day pay for my daughter’s college tuition. Or, they might also be the college tuition that couldda, wouldda, shouldda been paid but due to piracy, never became a check written to me.
Like I said at the start, as an author, I am both terrified and thrilled by e-books. Here’s hoping the thrills win out.