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E-books and self-publishing taking over the book world

December 11th, 2010 Posted in Arts and Life

By Caresa Alexander

LOGAN—Publishing a book can be a painstaking, time-consuming task. Before an author gets published, he will most likely pitch his story to several publishing houses. Then it can take years for the manuscript to become a book.

But with today’s technology, self-publishing an electronic book has become more common. To some, it’s a preferred method for authors to share their stories with the world.

Michelle Erickson of Archer, Idaho, is one author who has found self-publishing to be a great avenue for her books. For 40 years, Erickson has had a dream to see her stories in print. This year, her dream became a reality as she has published several books through eBook.

“We tried traditional publishing first,” Erickson recalled. “I sent it off over 80 times.

“I kept wondering why I wasn’t getting any bites on it,” she said. “Then I started doing a little more research into what they actually wanted. For a first-time author they only want 60,000 words or less.”

Erickson’s first book in The Chest of Souls series was more than 1,000 pages—far more than the 250 to 300 pages traditional publishers may accept for first-time authors. Publishing companies take a chance when they accept a manuscript, she said. There is no guarantee that every book will be a best-seller, so some publishing companies limit the length and number of copies for a first book.

With this limitation, Erickson’s goal of sharing her 12 books in 12 months would not be realized. Although a couple of publishing companies did accept her manuscript, she decided to publish her books through Amazon’s Kindle.

She hesitated to publish through eBook at first. She had heard that once an author is published electronically, no traditional publisher will look at them. But she felt that she wanted to share her books without the waiting time and restrictions.

“I control everything,” Erickson said. “I control the cover, the editing. I am able to decide what I want to keep in the novel, what I want to throw away. I decide the release date, they don’t.”

This flexibility will allow Erickson to publish her “12N12.” While traditional publishing can take a year or more, she said, people like things instantaneously. E-publishing solves that problem—readers don’t have to wait a year for the next book in a series to be released. Erickson also goes through Lulu, a Print On Demand (POD) company, for paper copies of her books as they are ordered.

“My books are always going to be available either way—eBook or Lulu,” Erickson said. “But no one has to warehouse them. I don’t have a bunch of books sitting around here waiting to be sold. It saves them money, it saves me money. They are printed as you want them.”

Michael Spooner, the director of Utah State University Press, explains that PODs are replacing the old fashioned printing press. Even big publishers are using POD technology, he said, for the same reasons of cost and inventory as Erickson.

In addition, he said, electronic versions of textbooks are now becoming available, and Spooner expects they may be offered at the university bookstore. He compared it to shopping on iTunes.

“Instead of just going to the bookstore and looking on the shelf, go online and just search that title and see if there is an eBook edition of it,” Spooner said. “You might be able to do a PDF or a Google version or digital editions. Textbooks are certainly expected to go that way.”

Spooner said libraries have bought books in electronic form since the 1990s. The Internet and Adobe PDF have advanced the popularity of eBooks.

“All of my colleagues at university presses are putting out their books in eBook form,” Spooner said. “All their new titles are going to have an eBook binding, an eBook edition.”

Backpacks heavy with textbooks could become a thing of the past as electronic readers replace traditional ink-and-paper textbooks. Spooner noted that students buy books for classes and pack them around for a semester, and then sell them back to the bookstore.

“Instead of lugging that book around, what you will do is pay a slightly lower price to rent the book or subscribe to the book for six months, and then you will carry it around on your laptop, on your Kindle, or whatever,” Spooner said.

The wide variety of electronic readers available makes it a challenge for publishers to stay current with the software, Spooner said. It is also a challenge to keep up with what people want.

He explained his idea of the perfect device: “An eBook reader or something more like a tablet, so you have the eBook reader but you can also browse the web, you can also compute, do your email, and do your Facebook,” Spooner mused.

“I don’t want to carry my iPad and cell phone and my laptop and my Kindle,” he said. “I want to have it all in one and I want it to be in color and I want it versatile. I want to be able to load programs and swap files and copy and everything. It needs to be a machine that can do computing and get on the Web.”

Until that machine is invented—and Spooner is sure that it will be—we can enjoy modern technology that allows authors to be their own publisher, and dream of the day when students can download their textbooks onto a single electronic device that weighs less than one textbook.


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