Wednesday, October 11

Caution - this contains a free plug

E-books have been around for a while, but they have yet to overcome my scepticism about their usefulness to the general reader.

So I'd better step carefully here – Suzanne Fleming (pictured), who has given me valuable help from time to time and hopefully will do so again, has just taken on the task of Business Development Manager with the e-book publisher Globusz Publishing.

Suzanne is an irrepressible bundle of creative energy, and she's taking Globusz into new directions which probably will change my ideas. But let me explain some of my existing doubts.

First, it's going to be hard to shift established readers from books that pass from friend to friend, or can be borrowed free from the library. Books are comfortable and convenient, even if you do have to lug them around and remember to return them. Displayed on your bookshelves, they're a great way to boast of your erudition.

And look at my wife, Merry. She'll spend hours in an armchair, reading. But at a computer, back pain will cripple her before she manages a couple of emails.

Perhaps, one day, we'll solve the problem with a laptop or some other screen device which she can use in an armchair, but I think Merry will demand Foxtel satellite TV first.

I see plenty of niche markets for e-publishing – textbooks, manuals, travel guides, that sort of thing – but I wonder about general publishing, fiction and non-fiction. General book publishing is a fashion industry, with a market manipulated by platoons of PR ladies, celebrity interviews, reviewers, book prizes, writers' festivals and book signings, in-store promotions, and the rest of it. Big money stuff, all of it.

So how does an e-publisher compete as it signs up promising but unknown authors and develops their skills, at the same time building a trusted “brand” that keeps buyers returning and placing orders?

Here's where Suzanne's ideas look promising. Globusz will change focus from general e-publishing, moving to a writer's assessment model. It will invite the public to evaluate writers' works within a formal Star Rating system, and the highest rated authors will be put on a list to be sent to literary agents and publishing houses (which, to me, seems to acknowlege that writers hope to graduate from e-publishing to the "real thing").

I like the idea. Writers and readers should both feel involved in the business in a way which goes beyond commercial relationships. Indeed, I foresee a less formal online community developing, with more conversation between readers, writers and editors, to run alongside the Star Rating assessment model.

That would be in line with today's most exciting trends on the wider internet, where a combination of “Web 2.0” technologies and changing user expectations are breaking down many of the old ways of doing things. By old ways, I mean the ways we used the internet five years ago!

Also, I could see specialised communities, covering areas from avant-garde experimental writing to romantic fiction, forming within the wider Globusz community. All of this, it seems to me, should boost the demand for basic e-publishing of books.

If you'd like to see Suzanne's ideas taking shape, put into your favorites list (yes, that's the free plug of which I warned). It might be a good address to pass on to any aspiring writers you know (another free plug!). Since I posted the material above, Suzanne has put up a blog where she invites readers to comment on her own work. This link will take you there.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the free plug Ian. Your comments are interesting and should stimulate further debate.