Brave new world of e-publishing

A long time ago in a land far, far away

Way back in 1999–which (and I hope you’re sitting down) was eleven years ago(!) (!!)– I was asked a question by an online friend, said question being this: do I have a novel I would like her to publish?

This is a question many of us writer-folk dream of being asked, much in the same way that waitress on La Brea is really hoping the guy at her next table wants to cast her in a movie.

But, properly contextualized, the novel in question– I called it Cycle of the Assassin— was a gigantic mutant thing I should have never let out into the light, and the “publishing” was solely CD-Rom-based.

This was the first attempt I saw to grab onto the technology of e-publishing.  The business plan was to put books on discs for sale, which would then be loaded into computers and read on the computer screen.

I said yes, because of course I did.  But I had my doubts.  Because people don’t want to read a book on their computer screen.

The more things change, the more they change

Last year, to see what would happen, I bundled together a bunch of my old humor columns and published them under the title Vacations and Other Errors in Judgment, electronically only.  I did this for two reasons:

1: it was free;

2: people were starting to buy Kindles from Amazon.  Not a lot of people, but people.

I didn’t promote it, I just threw it out there to see what happened.  Given the technology was new, maybe (I reasoned) there would be interest simply because of the dearth of options.

But I didn’t have really high expectation of success.  Because people don’t want to read a book on their computer screen.

Something to have, something to hold

A few weeks ago I held a copy of Immortal (the ARC) in my hands.  It was the first time it felt real to me after having lived with the manuscript for six years.  Mind you, I’d had the text for some time, held in my electronic hands in the form of a .pdf on my computer screen.  But that wasn’t real; that was a file I could alter as I saw fit.  It wasn’t permanent, in other words, not in the same way something printed and bound is permanent.

And I had read it many times on my computer screen, but again, that didn’t mean it was real; it meant it was a file, like so many other files that live in my computer.

The brave new world

And now a slightly different version of the copy I held in my hands is going to be released to the general public, put on sale like a genuine honest-to-God printed book should be.

But what’s interesting is that at least once a day I get some variation of this question: “will it be available on my Kindle/Nook/iBooks?”

My answer to this question is “um…” while in my head I’m thinking: people want to read a book on their computer?  Where was I when this happened?

The rest of the answer is yes of course it will be, but not at the release date.

Give us a little time to catch up.

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