06 May 2011

Opinions, experts, formats, ebooks, books and trying not to yawn

I know I haven't put up a post for ages.  That's because why read me when every man and his dog is now an expert on ebooks?!  Opinions about ebooks are everywhere - on the online news sites, industry web sites, e-newsletter services.  The twitterworld is full of ebook profiles and there are tweets-a-million about all things digital.  Whether it's on social networking or media sites, comments about ebooks are everywhere you look.  There is no other news in the publishing world anymore.  We've lost sight of so many things and I'm seriously wondering if we've forgotten what to say.  What else is happening out there?  Take away ebooks and digital strategies, there's a long pause.  Occasionally someone reverts back to metadata and bibliographic workflows.  Perhaps physical distribution.  Outsourcing maybe?  But where are news stories about service, responsiveness, account management, promotions, content, the people that make this industry (other than the usual suspects).  No, it's all ebooks, ebooks, ebooks.

You listen to a podcast or an interview with an author, and it's almost the headline after the story.  "Oh, and it's also available as an ebook."  Yippee!  Congratulations to you, dear author, and wow dear publisher, I'm so impressed!  Did you say it like that in the past - oh, and it's also available in trade paperback | audiobook | hardcover.  No, you didn't really focus on the format.  It was in the marketing blurb and in bibliographic databases.  But ebooks are so hip and happening now.  But to me, ebook is another format.  It's something to respond to consumer demand - give readers the "p" or the "e" - and encourage them to read.  Sales patterns will change over time and your business will refocus accordingly.   But let's make sure there's lots and bells and whistles now around it.  Let's put out media releases and in sales kits to our customers - also available as "e".  Yes people rejoice with me.  Just remember the story of the publisher who did that, proudly announced ebooks in their promotion and then struggled with all the library calls - having totally forgotten the library market, library ebook vendors, and library suppliers.  Ah yes, what works in the consumer space doesn't always work in the library space.  Does it Harper Collins?

Yes, you've read this far and I congratulate you.  I'm a jaded woman.  After eight years speaking digital and fluent "e" for the library market, I'm totally bored by all the stories and tidbits that I see about ebooks.  I almost yawn now.  Ebooks are finally in the consumer mindset but at the same time it's become boring for me.  All industry articles focus on either "e" or POD.  Yes, they've fascinated me for years but I'm over it.  I'm over ereading devices.  Every second person I know has a Kindle.  A freakin' Kindle of all things.  Another sale to the giant that is Amazon.  Why Kindle? I ask.  It's the only name they knew. And it's another gadget - one that they'll use a lot, download a heap of books for the device, but in two years time will they still be reading from it? 

Maybe that's the thing.  I've encouraged, supported and promoted all things "e" for the library market.  Great for reference products and scholarly books.  Having digital content in an academic library is a no-brainer.  And I've helped with content acquisition for our ebook partners in other channels.  Naturally I'm eagerly awaiting the Blio product from Baker & Taylor for the library market - and have been involved with Australian publishers on that too.  I think it's just the consumer space that's finally caught up.  But it didn't just catch up.  It's flooded the market.  It's all anyone in the industry wants to speak about.  There are publishers left, right and centre trying to be digital gurus and show leadership in the industry.  There's digital directors on board with the trade houses now but goodness sake, do these people know the ins and outs of all sales channels in the market.  Do they truly understand everything from bibliographic workflows through to selling a book.  Yes, there are a couple in the ANZ market that do - and they know who they are.  As to the rest of you, seriously....?  You've hopped on the ebook bandwagon and you are probably really good sales & marketing people but do you have detailed knowledge about what goes on in all the markets in which you operate.  Having worked with you all, I don't think you do.  YOU think you do.  But not all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.  We both know it.  So don't try and bluff me.

I think I'll just sit back and watch all those downloads, all those zillion articles, all that restructuring, repositioning for the digital world ahead, the names Amazon, Apple, Overdrive, Kobo and others mentioned to the point of adnauseum, and pop on the lounge with a trusty book to escape the same articles that are churned out every day.  Did I mention the format I'm reading these days?  After two years of my e-reader at a personal level (as opposed to professional) it's more than likely to = shock, horror = be a physical book.  The ereader gets a workout for holidays but the rest of the time it's rather dull, lifeless and boring.  Yes folks the great novelty has worn off.  (After costing me a small fortune in downloads and still dozens and dozens of unread books on the device) I'm now cuddled up with the old-fashioned thing.  Remember it?  The book.  No "e" in front. Ah, those were the days my friends, those were the days.

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