Thursday, October 28, 2010

Digitized !

Articles, surveys, studies, publishing facts, individual preferences and anecdotal tales come fast and furiously in news print, TV and Internet news cycles on the Future of the Book and the Death of the PB - "Picture Books, Long a Staple, Lose Out..." (NYT), (thepaperwait -October 13, 2010). The decline of the hard copy and printed page, increase in e-books and e-reading devices, "The ABC's of E-Reading," (WSJ), as well as one of the most pertinent articles for writers from the WSJ, "Authors Feel Pinch as E-Books Upend Publishing," bring an unknown future to authors.

In the midst of the many articles cited here and many others published over the last several months, I received a letter for a contract change from Sleeping Bear Press, publisher of my book, G IS FOR THE GARDEN STATE, one of SBP's 50 state alphabet series.

We are being digitized!

SBP was recently approached by an e-retailer to convert their books to digital form to be used with school smart boards. The smart boards are great interactive tools, with students often using handheld responders to write or give answers. SBP will monitor the publishing and financial success of the venture.

This development is exciting. I can sense what interesting information can be presented in this form, how intrigued the children could be at using information in this new manner, and how many children can be reached with this technology.

The report in the NYT on 9-29-10, titled "In Study, Children Cite Appeal of Digital Reading," describes a study by Scholastic Publishing. About 57% of the children between 9-17 said that they are interested in reading an e-book, while 25% said that they had already done so. A Scholastic officer said that "this was a call to action."

Parents and teachers, concerned that children are so immersed in computer games, testing and the speed of technology that they may not have the interest or time for reading, can take heart. If e-books entice them to read, it would be positive.

The future and technology is moving fast (one tech article suggests that the laptop is dying, being replaced by much smaller and faster equipment). Many publishers, librarians, teachers and writers can't see through the cloud in the crystal ball. One of the major parts of this new mix for writers is the declining revenue produced by e-books. One article mentions that authors of e-books receive about 50% of the return they were paid for hard back books.

A question for children's writers - - will you continue to write, or be able to afford the time to write for children, with such declining profits? We are children's writers because we love it, but people also need to support their families. How will the economies of digitization affect your writing life?

I am pre-posting this article by two weeks, so when the post is first up, I'll be visiting the great site of Machu Picchu in Peru. Perhaps in the intervening two weeks more news flashes on the health of writing and books will be published, making this post outdated - like print books and laptops?

Several bright spots in the ball - the Scholastic study says that even though the children surveyed want to read e-books, they also don't want to give up their real, hand held, print books. One of the librarians I interviewed about this said, "Well, PB and print books are still popular and comforting...and they don't have to be plugged in or need batteries!"


  1. Fascinating! I never thought about books being used on smartboards. Our elementary school doesn't have any yet, but they're high on the priority list.

    Since I'm unpublished, I'm not making any money at the moment, so even ebook royalties would be welcome - lol!

    Seriously though, the economics will get sorted out over time. Most writers write for the love of writing, but if authors truly can't make a living, terms will be renegotiated. Everything is just in a state of flux right now, but I bet in 10 years, when we're on the other side, we'll be laughing about how freaked out everyone was at this time.

    Of course, I could be wrong...

  2. I'll continue to write no matter what, because I love writing. And I don't fear the future of publishing. I have no idea what form publishing will take in ten or twenty years, but children will continue to need stories and people of all ages will continue to read.

  3. Paperbacks, which usually sell for about 50% of what hard covers do, also net the writer 50% less … so what's the difference between a paperback and an e-book?

  4. To comment on Meg's comment, I've read that often the royalty % for the author is much higher for an e-book than it would be on either a hardcover or a paperback.

    Right? Wrong? Comments from someone's experience?