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The 7 Myths of Digital Publishing

People have preconceptions even about new technology they haven’t tried. It’s the equivalent of offering homeopathic advice you’ve never followed yourself.

The Media Bistro site eBook Newser ran a fun little piece this week debunking what it calls five myths of e-books. These included the often-voiced complaint among the holdouts that e-books don’t smell like real books (how many people smell new books?). They don’t smell like old books, certainly – which means they aren’t mildewing or rotting.

The article followed an announcement a few weeks ago from R.R. Bowker that 74% of book buyers have never bought an eBook, although e-book sales increased by 17% last year. This is going to change, of course. It’s inevitable as more people become comfortable with e-reading devices, and as a younger generation, one accustomed to all things digital, begins to purchase other books other than those required as part of a curriculum.

In the meantime, I’ve created my own 7 Myths of Digital Publishing (it’s a spin-off of our 7 Myths of Book Publishing, part of our Book Publishing 2.0 course).

Myth 1. Digital publishing is only for genre fiction. Actually, while genre fiction – from the likes of, among others, J.A. Konrath, is doing quite well, different kinds of fiction are being noticed (the venerable Best American Short Stories collection featured quite a few stories that were originally published in digital form). Nonfiction works too. Why else would NBC, among others, begin digital-publishing units? To lose money? To ignore readers?

Myth 2. Digital publishing is for people who can’t get a real publishing deal. Actually, many writers with “real” publishing deals are opting to publish digitally first. And many writers who have solid records with traditional, i.e., paper, publishing, are finding that their new releases are selling better in a digital platform than in a hardcover format.

Myth 3. Digital publishing is too difficult. Actually, Amazon makes it ridiculously easy, and Barnes & Noble and others are doing the same. You just need to do a little groundwork to find what’s best for you.

Myth 4. If I publish digitally, I won’t be able to find a “real” publisher. Actually, publishers are scouring the bestselling titles of digitally published books to find authors they can lure back to the traditional fold (often having neglected these authors in the first place until their digital sales skyrocketed).

Myth 5. Digital books are too cheap to make money. Writers are finding they can make a living through digital publishing (and digital self-publishing). Although traditional publishers are raising the prices of the electronic versions of their books (to try to maintain their bottom line in the face of shrinking sales of “paper” books), self-published digital authors are pricing below the big companies, and selling quite well. And the royalties are better.

Myth 6. Digital books are for talentless amateurs. No. Any amateur can publish a book (and many professionals write bad books). You should bring the same level of care to any word you write, regardless of how it’s published.

Myth 7. Digital books sell themselves. An author still needs a platform for his or her message. Although audiences are gravitating toward e-books, you still need to build that audience.

You may have your own preconceptions about digital publishing. I’d love to hear them.

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3 Responses to “The 7 Myths of Digital Publishing”

  1. Aldous Irving Jimenez-Echegoye February 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    I guess marketing and promotion is the same everywhere…they have the same concept and idea, except that digital means that you are marketing in a different landscape which is the www.

    Thanks Bob for sharing this.

  2. Malcolm Welshman February 15, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    My novel Pets in a Pickle published in paperback and ebook format last May wasn’t going great guns in the first four months until I asked the publisher to reduce the ebook price to 99p when it shot up from 22,000 to number two on Kindle’s bestseller list within two weeks of the price reduction. That then got publicity for the paperback which crept up the Amazon chart.  So the ebook is definitely here to stay and have an influence on readership. 

  3. Claude Nougat February 25, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    Thanks Bob for pointing out all the misconceptions about e-books! It was time someone put it all together in one place like you did! I agree with everything you say except that I feel a little more nuanced about digital publishing for non-fiction. Since I live in Italy, I often buy non fiction because I can get the book instantly. For example, just got Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, a fantastic book. Trouble is I don’t find it very easy to read on an e-reader: I love to write in a book’s margins when it’s non fiction! I know one shouldn’t, but it’s easier that way to go back to the places that really stopped you dead in your tracks…

    I know e-readers do allow you to highlight passages and store them in a “clippings” file, even adding a note to your clippings. But when you want to review the book, you have to swim through all your clippings and that isn’t easy – not like flipping through the pages of a book…
    But that, as far as I can see, is the only real drawback to e-books. The system is still klunky and no doubt will get better in time.

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