Legacy publishing vs. the speed of light

Almost a year ago to this day, I sat in a publisher’s office and signed my first publishing deal. It was for a little book that I had penned and originally released as an eBook.

The publication date was slated for 1 May 2012. The rather lengthy wait was intentional – since it was thought that my book would best appeal to the tourism market, it seemed silly to be launching it when the summer was almost over (a bit of time was obviously needed for the design, proofreading, etc).

Well. It is now the middle of June 2012, and the book still isn’t out.

The process is enormously cumbersome. There are lots of people involved. Those people have lots of other projects on the go. Things get shoved aside. Mistakes get made. Things have to be done again. And if they have to be done again, it’s not just a matter of uploading a new copy within seconds. No – it’s a matter of throwing away a lot of dead tree material, and starting over again with lots of new dead tree material.

In short, it feels completely dinosaurian.

Meanwhile, I just got my first Kindle a couple of weeks ago, and am totally smitten. I’m even a bit taken aback by my own enthusiasm – I didn’t think I would be so awed by it. A large part of it is my amazement at how I can get a book delivered INSTANTLY, without even having to DO anything – old Amazon has already synced the device with my account, so when I click the “buy now” button on the website, the book is already on its way to my Kindle.

All of which makes my abovementioned publishing experience feel a bit like a wooden horse trying to keep up with a race horse. Which begs the question: is legacy publishing already dead?

[photo credit]

Posted in Publishing.

4 Comments

  1. How frustrating! I had to smile about your Kindle comments. I got a Kobo a few weeks ago myself, and was a very reluctant purchaser, but now I think it is great for being able to get e-books out of the library, and for huge hardback books that I don’t actually want to have taking up space, and for books I only want to read once….it’s very strange after so many years of reading to have a new way of doing it.

  2. I thought I would dislike it, that it would somehow interfere my book-reading experience … that it would make for more detachment from the story, or something. But that hasn’t been the case at all. If anything, I find it more comfortable to read this way.

  3. I’m a photographer, and it’s an interesting comparison to the evolution from film to digital. There has been the same question for some years, film or digi? Which is better? Will digi kill film? During client meetings I would patiently rehash the pros and cons of each. This was around 2005 or so. Then somewhere along the way, clients stopped asking about film. If I brought it up, I got sort of quizzical looks, like ‘why are we talking about film??’. Many photographers actually do still use film (and my own photo students still learn via darkroom craft and love it), but it’s quickly becoming a boutique niche, or a contrarian stance.

    This is probably where the whole Kindle et al situation is headed. It will be a debate until the day when suddenly there’s no debate, and we’ll realize the question was in fact long-settled, we just didn’t know it.

    It’s a bit different for photo books, which are actually taking off. With all the ways to breeze through jpegs on a screen, people are gravitating towards the physical object, the bespoke, where all the tangible visual elements add up to a satisfying design whole. With text-only books though, while some people use the same argument (‘I just like the feel of paper’ etc), I think the lure is less strong. Reading a book is about the words, and e-readers deliver the words beautifully.

    Especially as e-readers keep getting cheaper and better, I think printed books may go the way of vinyl records. To use the an iPod analogy, imagine, thousands of songs on one little sexy device in your pocket. Now imagine saying, ‘nah, I prefer my bookcase full of CDs/cassettes/records’.

  4. In the old days when they were still typesetting books by hand, it took 9 months from giving them your copy to holding the finished product. Now, with all the speeding up that digital processes have introduced into publication, it takes at least 9 months. And that’s mostly spent sitting in a queue ….

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