What would the world look like if Socrates had got his way?

Walt Shiel, author,  pilot and publisher is feeling sad. This week he shared sales volumes for the past seven quarters for his publishing company, Slipdown Mountain Publications LLC/Jacobsville Books.   The data shows that total sales increased by 450% over that short period. That is the kind of percentage increase that would have me dancing a jubilant tarantella in the main street of Collingwood. So why is Walt feeling sad?

In his latest post, One Micro-Publisher’s Book Sales, Shiel says, “I have to admit that I am somewhat saddened by the tremendous increase in sales of eBooks while, at the same time, encouraged by the heady jump in total books sold.”

He goes on to say, “Personally, I am not a big fan of eBooks in any format, although I do read them occasionally. Somehow, I think we are losing something as a culture if eBook sales continue to increase the way they have over the past couple of years.”

Don’t be sad, Walt. Dead tree books won’t go out of fashion in our life time. (I think ?) It sounds like you are going through the same kind of anxieties that poor old Socrates, the Greek philosopher and logician went through, back in the day, when “writing” first came into vogue.

In an excerpt from the The Phaedrus, Socrates, makes his case against writing.

“[Writing] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.”

Socrates may have been against writing but imagine the world today if Socrates had email !

Just as the invention of the Gutenberg press in the 15th century attracted a lot of resistance (after all, it threatened the very authority of the Church and took away the gainful employment of monks as scribes) it ultimately had a profound effect on civilization economically, intellectually, socially, and religiously;  so too the advent of eBooks will have a profound effect on civilization. OK, that may sound melodramatic but at least we can safely say that today, more people are reading content than ever before, whether it be dead tree books or digital books.  That has to be good news, for publishers and authors alike….so don’t be sad, Walt.

Other Sources:

Socrates was against writing.
If Socrates had email.

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Amazon: Redefining the publishing landscape.

The mighty Amazon has really taken on the mantle of publisher by going after and aggressively courting top established authors.  In the process, a wave of fear and uneasiness is rippling throughout the publishing industry.

Amazon is set to publish 122 books in various genres, in both paper and e-book form, thereby putting New York publishing houses on notice.

According to top Amazon executive, Russell Grandinetti, “It’s always the end of the world. You could set your watch on it arriving. The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader.”

Pushing things along is Amazon’s Kindle Fire, a tablet for books and other media, providing an end-to-end service in which Amazon develops, promotes and delivers the product.

First author to be signed up by Amazon is Tim Ferriss, self help guru for men. Amazon will publish his next work, “The 4-Hour Chef,”  as a hardcover, an e-book and an audio book. Also signed up is actress and director, Penny Marshall, who reportedly was paid $800,000 for a memoir.

Clearly, publishers need to rethink their business models to survive in this new and sometimes combative landscape.

Related articles:

New York Times  – Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal

Gizmodo  – Amazon Is a Book Publisher For Reals Now

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When was the last time you stopped to smell a book…?

Future of eBooksWhen was the last time you stopped to smell a book… a dead tree book? Seriously, this is almost always the first line of resistance from those who fear the decline of hard copy books.  “I’m not interested in eBooks. I love the smell of real books,” they proclaim. “You can’t get that with a digital reader.”  True….the last time I sniffed an iPad, I did notice a discernible lack of “mustiness.” (Gee and I thought content was king !!)

Well fear not, my friends with your heightened olfactory senses…”The Gutenberg era is not about to come to an end. Printed books will still exist. After Television, we still have cinema and radio. There is no need to fear that bound books will only be found in museums, connoisseurs’ collections, and in the antique markets, or considered curiosities the same way we now view eight-track tapes.”

So concludes this Price Waterhouse Coopers’ report, Turning the Page – The Future of eBooks, which examines trends and developments in the digital publishing markets in the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany. It identifies market opportunities and developments for eBooks and eReaders and makes recommendations for publishers, traditional retailers, online retailers and intermediaries.

This 40 page PDF document is freely available for download by clicking on image above.

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Today’s content consumers are voracious omnivores.

“Today’s content consumers are voracious omnivores”………. Dev Ganesan, CEO of Aptara

These are exciting times in the world of publishing. More content today is being read electronically than on paper. According to the Wall Street Journal, Marketing & Research Resources Inc found in a 2010 survey that 40% of those questioned now read more on their Kindles and iPads, than they did with print books.

With e-book sales expected to soar 40% in the next four years according to IHS iSuppli research, many authors are embracing the digital inevitability and turning to self publishing. Joe Konrath and Amanda Hocking are just two examples of writers already making a small fortune out of self publishing. I can’t vouch for the literary quality of their books but their sales figures will astound you.

“…there is no traditional publisher in the world right now that can offer Amanda Hocking terms that are better than what she’s currently getting, right now on the Kindle store, all on her own…..”  Read more

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