The “State of Ebooks” panel at Worldcon 75 was one of the smaller but more eagerly followed panels at the con, with almost every seat taken.
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Irene Vartanoff became a convert to ebooks and self-publishing, she said, due to the portability of ebooks, and the economics and lead times of self-publishing, which underlined that writers no longer needed to wait around for traditional publishers. Nielsen Hayden recalled the early experimental days of ebook publishing in the late 1990s as a time when people joked about the huge number of man-hours of meetings spent on the medium compared to the few dollars of profit. “Things have changed since then.”
For piracy and DRM, Nielsen Hayden said that Tor has seen no loss of sales or business since it went fully DRM-free. He cited Bain Books’s policy of keeping books DRM free, and piracy as essentially a tolerable cost-of-doing-business. And if a show of (clapping) hands from the audience is any proof, the argument over DRM just isn’t an argument any more. No one wants DRM. When someone from the floor asked why publishers still insist on DRM, Nielsen Hayden said: “you’re asking the wrong publisher.”
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Nonetheless, publishers have come round to ebooks. “Publishers like them. They have fewer materials costs,” said Nielsen Hayden, though he also pointed out, “they’re not free to make; they’re certainly not free to make well.” And he maintained that books should still come out, and remain core to the business, while “to do something in e only is going to bring a kind of stigma.” Self-publishers of ebooks only, however, can still succeed, especially those writing in “a narrow but intense niche,” instancing “narrowly defined romance tastes… that appeal to a few people, but to those, it appeals a lot.”
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One strong argument for continued quality print publication everyone buys into is avoiding obsolescence of formats. Nielsen Hayden noted that a book published around 1600 could be dropped into the sea, left for hundreds of years, retrieved, and would still be readable.
Link to the rest at TeleRead
“One strong argument for continued quality print publication everyone buys into is avoiding obsolescence of formats.”
PG suggests obsolescence of traditional publishers is a much more likely issue.