Sullivan Street Press began life as an e-book only publisher. Caught up in the excitement of a new publishing paradigm that would allow for a democraticization of the publishing process, the company and I began to test out new ideas for ways that all writers and readers could benefit from this marvelous technology.
I began my publishing career in 1978 and learned how to produce bound books at my first job for a now defunct publishing company that was more interested in creative financing than was healthy for them. Yet, their creative ways allowed them to publish translated works of real value that would not have seen an American audience or been found on bookstore shelves because of the ways in which the business was structured in those days.
Fast forward to the 1990s when major publishers were not open at all to the idea of e-books or what they were in those days, pdf files on your desktop. An inventive and far-sighted publisher was put out of business by the major publishers for daring to suggest that out of print books, in other words, books no publisher was interested in any longer, might find a new market in the digital realm of our computer screens. But, as I said, this individual was driven out of business and litigated to death over a format that we now all find old fashioned, yet was the very format that Barnes & Noble used in their early versions of the NOOK.
Today, we read constantly that e-books aren’t doing as well as the predictions of analysts who seem to be more concerned with turning profits than reading books. Yet, one company has been allowed to post deficits for years, until just this year in fact, because Amazon of all the players in the e-book world has not been tech adverse in its business model. Its business model is based on a much deeper understanding of the technical world in which we live (with the attendant bad and good that means) and has profited from the sale of e-books in ways that publishers never can. It takes a moment to understand why Amazon has invested so much money in their book business.
If you stop for a moment and think more about what it is that Amazon knows about you, you will begin to comprehend just how their business is predicated on being a one-stop purveyor of all things you need. Over the 2 decades that they have been in business, Amazon has been collecting data on all its customers and creating a data bank that allows them to know how to sell almost anything we want. No one except them has access to this data, oh, except the government of course, and even publishers who could do a much better business if they had this information are not allowed access to it.
Their technology for e-books, which is theirs alone, no other e-tailer can use or does use the proprietary software that Amazon designed for the e-books that they distribute (Mobi) and while we are speaking of their unique practices, you also don’t own the e-books you download onto the Kindle, they do. And at any time they can delete it from your devices.
Yet, for all these problems and the complicated history of how we arrived at this moment of e-books and their place in our libraries, I am still a huge fan of them for practical reasons (I can take a library with me when I travel and I travel a lot) and I think environmentally, we stand a better chance of preserving the resources we have, given though that we understand what resources are necessary to manufacture our devices and how they are obtained. (I will write further about this issue in coming posts.)
We are all called upon to take seriously our libraries and bookstores, to support the writers and publishers who are producing the literature we need to make better choices and to lead more informed lives. Books are treasured by so many for these reasons but also because within the process of reading them, we are transformed as the writer who wrote them was also transformed in the process of building those stories and finding the words to say exactly what she meant to say.
E-books aren’t as some would like you to believe all that cheap to produce. The same, very same, efforts to make the text the best it can be is necessary for both bound and e-books. What is different is that e-books can be produced more quickly and made available across a variety of markets in ways that bound books cannot be.
Ride the wave of e-books and experience the freedom to read anywhere at any time almost any book you want to read. Share almost all content with your friends, quote it directly into your emails, your FB page, onto a Twitter post, however the words move you to share them; that too is your new ability given the ways in which e-books are formated.
All the books I publish are available as e-books and you can find out all about them here.