Why eBooks are Special


kindle_loveDid you hear the story about the university professor in Germany in 1457? He was looking at one of Gutenberg’s first printed books and he had a sneer on his face.

As he flipped through the pages he said, “This will never be popular. People like scrolls. Scrolls fit the hand better and are easier to roll and unroll. Plus, scrolls have a distinctive smell that people love.”

Fiction? Sure. I made up that story. But it illustrates that some people are slow to adopt new technology. Writing started on cave walls, jumped to impressions on wet clay (cuneiform), then moved to scrolls, books and now to the electronic form we call eBooks.

At every stage, someone claimed that the previous form was better. It takes time for civilization to adapt. However, based on history, we known that printed books will go the way of cave-writing, cuneiform and scrolls. Just give it time.

Reasons eBooks are Special

There are many reasons why eBooks are special.

  • You can shop for an eBook anywhere you have an Internet connection and have it delivered instantly.
  • You often get far more than just printed material—many eBooks are interactive with pictures, charts, maps and links to related material.
  • You can store many hundreds of books on a single small, portable device.
  • You can even customize how pages appear on devices like a Kindle so they look like the printed pages of yore.

You can be sure of three things when it comes to printed books.

  • You have to kill a lot of trees to make the paper.
  • You have to burn a lot of fossil fuels to ship printed books around the country.
  • They will never improve. They will always be ink on paper glued between covers.

On the other hand, eBook technology will only improve. I was selling eBooks on the Internet as early as 1998 and it was a primitive process. There was no Amazon or Whispernet delivery. You had to take orders by email. People put their credit card data in the body of the message—no one was concerned about security back then. I had to telephone the credit card company to get approval for each transaction. I sent the eBook to the customer by email, sometimes by mail on a CD. The eBooks themselves were EXE files (like a computer program). It was great when the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) came along.

Now, eBook creation is easy with the universally accepted Kindle Mobi or ePub formats. The marketing, sales and delivery process is automated. Millions of otherwise unavailable books are now cheap and plentiful. We’ve come a long way baby, thanks to ever-improving technology.

eBooks Expand the World for Everyone

eBooks offer a brave new world for literacy. All the world’s greatest books (and the terrible ones too) can be digitized in a small file. They can be read by any computer, tablet, smart phone or increasingly inexpensive dedicated eBook reader.

Universal education has never been possible in the history of humanity. Now it is. Combined with the Internet, eBooks offer anyone the opportunity to explore anything in-depth. eBooks are cheap to create and cheap to distribute.

Another reason eBooks expand the world for everyone is because anyone can write and publish one. Journalist A.J. Liebling (1904-1963) said, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” That was true until the dawn of the Internet Age and the proliferation of eBooks. It took a huge amount of money to create content, print it on expensive presses and distribute it. Only the rich could sway public opinion.

That era is gone. The “gate-keepers” like publishers, brick and mortar bookstores, professional reviewers and others arbitrators of acceptability are no longer in control. Power to the people!

It is possible for almost anyone to write an eBook, publish it and distribute it worldwide at no cost. I’m not recommending you try to do it all free, but technology has made it possible.

A Grapefruit in the Face of eBook Critics?

It may not be politically correct today, but there’s that often-shown scene in James Cagney’s great film “Public Enemy” (1931) where he smushes a grapefruit into the face of his girlfriend played by Mae Clarke. If you’re not familiar with it, click here to see the clip.

Personally, I think eBook critics might deserve a grapefruit in the face. They seem to be Luddites  seeking to destroy progress.

You occasionally see articles that say, “eBook Readership Falls.” Such articles tend to gloat over the fact that people still like printed books. In fact, a recent Pew Research Center study (2016) said, “print books remain more popular than books in digital formats.”

But what are the actual numbers behind the Pew research? In the past 12 months, only 73 percent of those polled had read a book in any format. However, the study showed readership of print books dropped 6 percent. But eBook readership increased by 11 percent!

Yes, print books are still popular and many people prefer them. However, you need to keep in mind that print books have been around for 560 years. The integrated eBook distribution infrastructure we know and love today did not exist until 2007 when Amazon created the Kindle and the Whispernet delivery system. Amazon sells an estimated average 1.1 million eBooks each day (2016). Of course, many other companies also sell eBooks, but the Amazon story is an amazing one.

Join the eBook revolution! You can write and publish an eBook. You can get worldwide distribution. Yes, you must work hard to promote your eBook to see financial success. But it’s possible with the right motivation, simple skills and perseverance.

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