A couple days ago, my colleague at PC Mag, Tim Bajarin, wrote a column about how tablets and e-books could change the way writers publish. In the piece, he stated that writers could get a bigger cut of their book profits by selling them directly to readers through an online retailer. He writes:
"Creative writers could easily bypass a publisher completely, in much the same manner as an independent developer, keeping the lion's share of the profits. The royalty on an e-book sold through a publisher is currently around 20-percent, while developers get 70-percent from downloads sold through app stores."
Bajarin goes on to say that because of the multimedia capabilities of e-book readers, authors could integrate elements such as photography, audio, and video into their books to enhance the experience.
As far as the direct-to-consumer model goes for authors, I feel we still need publishing companies (or at least a marketing company) to do the promotion. This can include working with bookstores for readings and in-store signings, booking appearances on radio and TV, and generally organizing a book tour. Putting such tasks on the author can be not only burdensome but completely unsuccessful. Publicists and PR people already have the connections, and it would be hard for individual writers to have their calls returned by Barnes & Noble execs. It is hard enough for emerging literary writers to be noticed over the din of the genre bestsellers, not to mention trying to get readers to find and buy your book on the Web.
Multimedia capabilities are definitely a cool idea, but will they enhance the reading experience? Many of us turn to books as a linear escape from the multimedia chaos of Web sites. Will writers use bells and whistles to compensate for lousy writing?
What do you think? Submit your comments.