Myths About E-books and E-Book Publishing
Since Stephen King published his experimental E-book Riding
the Bullet in 1997, the mainstream media has loved to talk about
e-books. As with politics and movies, every journalist seems to have an
opinion on the subject filling the public with information and in many
cases disinformation. Separate fact from fiction here.
1. MYTH: E-books can only be read on a desktop computer.
FACT: E-books are read on any electronic computing device from 19
inch desktop monitors to 3 inch handheld computer touchscreens. While
you can read an e-book at your desktop, most e-book readers prefer
taking their books to bed, the patio, car or bathroom with a portable
2. MYTH: E-books aren't as well-written as the ones you buy in the
FACT: In head-to-head contests, e-books have tied with their bookstore
cousins as judged by peers in the publishing industry.
3. MYTH: There are only a limited number of e-books on the market.
FACT: E-book publishers sell all ranges of material from Self Help Diet
books, to Romances, Mysteries, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Children's,
History and How-Tos. Even the Bible, in its myriad of editions, has been
released in e-book form.
4. MYTH: E-book Publishing is for books not good enough to appear on
FACT: Book manuscripts submitted to e-book publishers are often
submitted to comparable print publishers. The competition to be
published is fierce today. A recent survey showed less than 3% of all
submitted manuscripts are bought and published by e-publishers. In most
cases, the chances of publishing an e-book are even smaller than
publishing a book with a print publisher. E-book titles are often resold
in other formats including hardback, audio (books on tape) and even TV
5. MYTH: E-books are like vanity books, no one ever edits.
FACT: Before a book manuscript is acquired by a publishing house, one to
two editors completely read-through the submission noting opinions and
need for changes. If the book is deemed salable with changes, authors
are giving a list of revisions to perform before a contract to publish
is ever offered. After a contract is signed, the manuscript undergoes
another complete edit by one to two editors for content, grammar,
punctuation and spelling as well as formatting errors. These corrected
proofs (called galleys) are sent to the author for review and editing.
In contrast, a vanity book is reviewed only by the author before it
makes it into print. Unfortunately, when dealing with manuscripts
several hundred pages in length, gremlins are known to pop up time to
time no matter how many trained eyes are reviewing it.
6. MYTH: E-published books are only available for the computer.
FACT: Most e-publishers began their businesses under the notion that
readers deserved to enjoy books in whatever form they prefer. With the
advances in printing technology, these small press publishers expanded
their format offerings to include traditional trade paperback. Often
called POD (Print On Demand) books, these trade paperbacks are actually
printed in small lots to reduce upfront costs. As demand for a book
grows, more copies are printed. My publisher currently contracts with
three printers to produce trade paperbacks. Only one (Ingram's Lightning
Press) qualifies as a POD printer supplying one book per order. POD
books are virtually indistinguishable from the mass market brethren
often found languishing on the bookshelves. The main difference is that
POD books have a home before their made, while at least half of their
bookshelf cousins end up getting shredded and pulped within the year of
7. MYTH: E-Publishers are not real book publishers.
FACT: A reputable book publisher contracts with authors to market their
work under the following terms - the work is edited by a qualified
editor, a percentage of sales (royalty) is paid to the author, the
publisher acquires unique ISBN and UPC code numbers for the work, and no
fees are charged the author for any of the above services. E-publishers
are most commonly operated as small press companies with limited budgets
and distribution channels. Due to monetary constraints, most
e-publishers can not afford to offer authors large advances (if any) but
make up the difference with increased royalty percentages. An average
royalty for a mass market print author is 8-10% (around 50 - 80 cents
per book); the average royalty for an e-published author is 25-50%
($1-$5 per book).
8. MYTH: E-books are too expensive.
FACT: When the corporate publishing houses ventured into e-publishing in
2000, they brought with them a deep-seeded fear of e-publishing and
craving to make tons of profit, usually at the reader and writer's
expense. While royalties were kept low in author contracts, e-book
versions were sold at hard cover prices ($15 - $25 per book). No
surprisingly, buyers weren't keen on spending their hard-earned cash.
While corporate publishers are publicly rethinking their e-book
strategy, most independent e-publishers market content between $3 - $8
per book. This is usually half the price of their comparable trade
paperback versions and comparable to pocket-size paperbacks in your
9. MYTH: You can't read an e-book in the bathroom or on the beach.
FACT: With handheld computers (PDAs) and portable readers, e-books can
be read anywhere their paper cousins are enjoyed. My favorite reading
places are in bed, the car, my patio room, and yes the bathroom. I won't
be taking my PDA for a dip in the pool just as I doubt my paperbacks
would survive the experience. One place I can read an e-book that my
paper books are unusable is in the dark. Portable readers and PDAs have
built-in lights to illuminate your reading screen.
10. MYTH: E-books are a newfangled fad invented to drive paper books
out of existence.
FACT: Bibliophiles or those heavily invested in the print industry tend
to say these things in hopes they are true. E-book reading has been
around in a niche market for about 5 years. Studies show it has
increased every year rather than become popular one year like Pet Rocks
and die out the next. But no matter how popular e-books become, people
will always want a printed version to adorn their bookshelves. Just as
paperbacks did not end the sale of hardback books, e-books seek only to
give the reader another convenient form of enjoying the written word.
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