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The Ten Greatest Myths About e-Books    

The Ten Greatest Myths About e-Books: An e-Book Primer

by Brenna Lyons

When someone says the word 'e-book,' what's the first thing that comes to your mind? Most likely, the desktop computer and an uncomfortable sit in front of it does, but that would be the e-books of the past. The truth is, there are dozens of myths and misconceptions about e-books, many of them based on the e-book market of a decade or more ago, when the industry was in its infancy. I'll address the top ten myths of e-publishing and the truth behind them.

Myth #1: Reading an e-book means reading at a desktop. That's hard on the back and the eyes.

Fact: Most readers choose to read on a handheld reader, Smart Phone or PDA. These readers can be carried anywhere, are backlit to be easy on the eyes, are capable of increasing font size for your comfort, and can even bookmark your place in a book. Most PDAs are rechargeable, and all are capable of carrying dozens...if not hundreds of books in a machine that will fit in the palm of your hand.

Myth #2: The readers are expensive.

Fact: The ebookwise reader, based on the old Rocket Reader design, sells for $120 regularly. Basic Palm PDAs sell for as little as that, as well. Even a top-of-the-line Palm PDA can often be had for $250 or less. Better, you can find new, unopened Palms on eBay and half.com for half that amount or less, at times. A PDA can also double as your phone book, calculator, date book, and much more...and a Smart Phone is nothing more than a standard cell phone that can also read books.

Myth #3: I'd have to buy software to read the books.

Fact: All the software needed to read e-books is available for free on the web or comes with your machine. The three most popular e-book file types are PDF, HTML and LIT. PDF is read on Adobe Acrobat, which is a free download. Likewise, LIT, which is read with MSReader, is a free download. HTML can be read on any browser or in MSWord. Any proprietary file type, like Hie or Mobi, will be read on a machine that is set up to read it, so there's nothing to buy.

Myth #4: Buying e-books is hard.

Fact: Not at all! You go to the publishers directly or to a reseller like Fictionwise or ereader.com and put the books in a virtual shopping cart. At checkout, you pay with a credit card, debit card or PayPal. Then you simply download the books to your computer, usually a one-click proposition, and read.

With e-books, the store is always open, day or night. There's no traveling through bad weather, no gas in the car, and no traffic. If you can sign onto the internet, you can read an e-book.

Myth #5: e-books are only for Science Fiction/Fantasy types.

Fact: It couldn't be further from the truth. The genres that sell best in e-book are SF/f/dark fantasy, romance (especially cross-genre romance), and erotica/erotic romance. Other high-selling genres in e-book are humor, mainstream, Chick Lit and horror. In fact, for the first time ever in 2005, IDPF's bestselling e-book list for the year included many NY bestsellers from print, and many of those were mainstream titles. There was even a version of the Bible on the list.

A cross-section of e-book authors who write both Science Fiction/Fantasy and cross-genre Erotic Romance report that romance tends to sell better in a short spurt, but SF/F sells smaller amounts over a longer time period, making them nearly equal in sales in the long run. A look at the Fictionwise bestsellers on any given day seems to reinforce this polling.

Myth #6: e-books are only for kids. People my age don't read e-books.

Fact: e-books are just as popular with older readers as younger. In fact, the average age of readers for sensual and erotic cross-genre romances in e-books falls in the women aged 35+ range, the same as it does in print. In fact, it may be that older readers would be more appreciative of them, because of a couple of features: storage space reduction, weight difference in carrying books and the ability to increase font to a comfortable level.

Myth #7: e-books are only good for reissues of old bestsellers from NY.

Fact: Another that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, Fictionwise's author of the year for 2005 is a small press author, putting out new work into e-book. Of course, there is a large market for out-of-print books in e-book, and many NY authors are taking advantage of that, but that is a major asset for the reader.

e-books don't go out of print, unless the author and publisher decide to dissolve the contract. Since there is no shelf space issue, they can sell for as long as you want them to, meaning that there is never a problem with new readers coming in and getting the whole series, without searching for OOP (out of print) books and paying whatever price used book stores will charge for them. In fact, I recently witnessed a reader bemoaning the fact that the OOP books of a popular series were selling used for $24-$80 per book. It was pointed out to her that she could purchase those same books in e-book for $7 per book at Fictionwise, and she ultimately did.

Myth #8: e-books are akin to subsidy publishing, poorly-edited and not worth the time.

Fact: This rumor is definitely a throw-back to the infancy of e-publishing. Some of the publishers from those days still operate in the black today. They survive for a couple of reasons: they have great books, incredible authors and a readership that keeps on growing.

e-books compete in the major awards that allow them, and they usually final a few every year, where they are welcome. They review in some of the major venues, like RT magazine, and review as high as or higher than their NY cousins. In short, the quality of the established houses and authors is easily proven.

e-publishers don't publish every submission. A recent survey of the houses show that they publish between 1 in 40 and 1 in 150 of the submissions received yearly, on par with some NY publishers.

When fly-by-nights with a lesser standard for acceptances and edits appear, they typically don't survive long, and they certainly don't manage the type of readership the long-standing publishers enjoy.

In addition, e-publishers are willing and able to forge new markets, markets that NY often adopts once they are proven a good investment with a strong readership. Among those would be the paranormal romance market and the cross-genre erotic romance market.

What does that mean? It means that you are more likely to find breakout books with small press and e-publishing than with NY. There is no formula book in e-book publishing. To be considered, the book has to stand out from the crowd somehow, just as the industry it will represent must. That means fresh, new storylines for the readers.

Myth #9: e-books were introduced with Riding the Bullet by Stephen King, failed miserably and are trying valiantly to make a come-back today.

Fact: e-books are in their second growth cycle after the shake-up that saw the demise of the more radical publisher styles that emerged after Riding The Bullet released. The publishers left standing at that point are, by and large, still alive and kicking today, because they employ a stable business style not unlike NY print publishers do...just adjusted for the e-book market. Fly-by-nights still emerge from time to time, so the best test of an e-publisher is longevity, reviews, awards and author/reader recommendations.

Myth #10: The e-book market is dying out. They don't sell much, and they will certainly never catch on.

Fact: As I said, in a growth cycle... Fictionwise (the #2 reseller of e-books in existence today...B&N of e-books) saw a 100% increase in sales from 2002 to 2003 and 110% from 2003 to 2004. Keep in mind that's cumulative, so what they actually saw was about 4.2 times growth in 2 years. If memory serves, they only saw a 65% rise in sales in 2005, but again...cumulative, so that would be almost 7 times the sales they saw in 2002.

IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum...formerly the Open e-Book Forum) follows not just Fictionwise but also several other resellers and the few publishers willing to share numbers. Not all will or can share this type of information with an outside source. They show a lower rise, but still significant. Their quarterly rise in sales, when compared to the year before typically range between 25 and 65%. Again...cumulative, so the rise is drastic. Not every sales outlet of e-books reports to IDPF. Considering the fact that IDPF usually receives numbers from fifteen or sixteen of the larger outlets in an industry of thousands of outlets, it is assured that the actual numbers of e-books sold are much higher than even they see and report.

Welcome to the new millennium of e-books. It's a whole new world.

With a BS in accounting and computer programming, it's a strange irony that Brenna Lyons will become best known for her first love, writing. A bestselling novelist and poet in independent-press, Brenna has finaled for five EPPIES, three PEARLS, two CAPAS and a DREAM REALM AWARD in the last three years. Brenna is currently the President of EPIC (2006-2007). She can be reached via her site at http://www.brennalyons.com.

Reprinted with permission of the author.

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