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French Study Trip (Interlude)

As is only appropriate for someone writing about technology, publishing, and audience development, I’ve been posting all of these French Study Trip posts on my Facebook account as well. Personally, I don’t imagine anyone ever reads these (did you see that one yesterday? It was like the War & Peace of abstracted publishing babble!), but actually, yesterday evening two friends posted a few interesting questions that I thought I’d share here (this is digital cross-pollination) to help foster a conversation.

First off, Robert Richardson (I worked with Robert at Schuler Books in Grand Rapids, MI some years back) asked about who would have access to eBooks: “Did you talk much about how eBooks and eBook publishing may reinforce and expand a global class system via the digital divide?”

A: We actually didn’t talk about this, but it’s a really good point. I still believe print books and eBooks will co-exist, but if they co-exist like CDs and digital music . . . well, that could be a problem. Although it’s likely that e-reading devices will drop in cost, cell phones will be used for this as well, and eBook prices will be lower than printed books. (More on that issue on Thursday.) So maybe . . .

Douglas Carlsen from Whitman College Bookstore brought up a ton of good points: “Some random thoughts – If Indie and Corporate publishers value books for different reasons – your aesthetic/profit dichotomy – then must it necessarily follow that one cannot amplify the other? If brand means no sales – this must mean no readers. If no one is reading a particular work, was it worth printing? What is worth worth? Will the . . . Read More accessibility of ebooks reduce the cost of such works making them more likely to be read and make them more “worth” publishing? What value (aesthetic/profit) is any work that is not read? From the profit point of view none, from the aesthetic some – but, in the end from either point of view, troubling. It comes down to a question – “can we justify our value?”. If accessibility by way of ebooks enhances readership at an aesthetic level then what? Yet will anyone read – let us say for argument – Gravity’s Rainbow as an ebook? or Ulysses? or The Ephemera of a Maid’s Dreaming? What is lost what is gained. Does Reader have more import in the process than publisher, or distributor, or bookseller? Or is all a matter of point of view? But it was noted that there was little of note on the author. Without the author’s endeavors there are no works to read. Can an ebook go directly from author to reader? Yes, of course, but what of the aesthetic/profit issue for author? Are those efforts worth it without value? Ah, to be read. If to write to be read were all, what then? The end.”

I have no answers for this . . . yet. Although to be honest, the author comes back into my rambling posts on Friday . . .

Anyway, chime in below. This should be a discussion—after days of debating and questioning and speculating in Paris, I’m not sure we really figured out jack, except to say that things were changing and that this is scary and filled with opportunities. But I’d rather hear what you think.



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