E-books: A Promise, Not a Threat

by Liz Fifer

E-books are a gimmicky, inferior alternative to traditionally paperbound books. They will make bookstores and mass-market paperbacks to be novelties of the past.

That was my fear, at least.

I was as skeptical as anyone else when e-books first hit the market. Reading from a computer-like monitor seemed so unappealing. I didn’t want my favorite local bookstores, rich with personality, to be replaced by online, impersonal booksellers. The next generation would never cozy up and escape with a good book—they would be forever distracted by their email on their tablets.

But working as an intern at TSUP, I had more exposure to them. TSUP produces and distributes their e-books to various vendors (Amazon, Barnes & Noble’s, iTunes, etc), and their profits have benefited from the new-found market. I worked with assigning styles to manuscripts to be turned into e-books and witnessed the intensive preparation a manuscript undergoes in the transformation to an e-book. It garnered my respect, and I began to reconsider e-books.

I found that e-reader monitors had changed and bright screens no longer strain my eyes. New advances in technology allow them to resemble paper and are easier to read under sunlight. And while I thought that the price of e-readers and tablets weren’t reasonable comparative to real books, their prices have fallen and e-books are generally cheaper than their hardback or paperback versions. With online marketplaces, it is also convenient and simple to buy books.

But my most important discovery was that e-books are revolutionizing the industry of publishing. Because of the appeal of e-readers and tablets, readers are enticed to read and buy more books—as books have become easier to transport and acquire. While hardbacks and paperbacks are still the huge majority of sales for publishers, e-books provide additional revenue and are boosting the industry. They’re also a foolproof use of resources. Publishers don’t have to worry about overprinting electronic copies of their books.

In addition to publishers making more money, authors find it easier to self-publish and make some money too. It is relatively easy for an author to self-publish electronically. While they certainly won’t hit the New York Times Bestseller List with self-publishing alone, they can still make money for low production costs. Readers can connect with these authors and quickly get the next book in a series. Most significantly, the author can retain their independence and promote the spirit of writing without relying on big publishing houses to do so.

E-books, I have realized, aren’t a replacement for a book in hand—they are a supplement. It isn’t the medium of storytelling that is important. It is that we are still communicating stories. While I thought the newfangled technology was threatening my traditional paper-turning ways, I have reconsidered. E-books are another avenue for publishers, authors, and readers. For storytelling, they are promising for the future.

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