E-Books, Part 3: Books from Electronic or Traditional Publishers

Although many people prefer to read print, I always look for e-books. My poor vision makes it difficult for me to read most print books, but I can adjust the font on e-books to make them easy for me to read.

People who associate e-books with short, often free, how-to and marketing books may be surprised to learn e-books are available in every genre as print books. Fictionwise, an online e-bookstore, lists nearly two dozen categories of fiction and nonfiction titles. eBookMall offers more than 150,000 titles in three dozen categories. The EPIC Bookstore carries thousands of titles written by hundreds of members of EPIC, Electronically Published Internet Connection. Other e-bookstores include Reader’s Eden and DPP Store.  My Web site lists e-book and small press booksellers and directories as well as e-publishing resources.

Some publishers release titles only in electronic formats, but most electronic publishers also make books available in print. In general, electronic publishers are small press and often specialize in a particular genre: romance, speculative fiction, etc. Others, however, offer books in all genres.

Most of the large publishing houses now offer at least some of their inventory as e-books as well as print. However, for some unfathomable reason, they offer charge more for the electronic version than for paperback, rarely even more than for hardback. Since the production costs of e-books are less than the costs of producing print books, it seems e-books should sell for less.

Small press publishers do sell e-books for less than print books, usually between $3 to $6. That makes e-books attractive for readers who would like to try new authors and different genres without spending a lot. The low cost also means avid readers can read more books for their book budget.

Although the low cost of entry for electronic publishing brings in a few companies that don’t produce good quality, most e-publishers are selective in the manuscripts they accept and careful in editing and production. Generally, you can read a chapter or three online at the publisher’s or bookstore’s Web site before you buy to decide if you like the writer’s style.

The one thing that sets e-books from small publishers apart from books from the traditional publishers is that small e-publishers are usually more open to books that don’t fit a particular mold. You’ll find more mixing of genres and less stringent “rules.” For example, print publishers told me no one wanted to read a romance featuring a disabled heroine, but an e-publisher was actually looking for stories about characters with disabilities.

EPIC, the voice of electronic publishing, says on its Web site:

Even though E-Publishing is a relatively new venue, there are many readers, writers, and traditionally published authors who believe this is one of the major marketplaces of the future. …

Among our members, you’ll find writers of action/adventure, fantasy, historical, horror, inspirational, mystery, romance, science fiction, suspense, time travel, war, westerns, stories for children and young adults-in short, all the most popular fiction genres, as well as non-fiction self-help and how-to.

The two major problems, as I see it, with electronic publishing are these:

  • E-books are harder to find than print books. Many are sold primarily from the publisher’s Web site, so you have to hear about a publisher, author, or book somewhere to lead you to their site. It’s much more convenient to be able to go to a central location to order books from several publishers. While the bookstores listed above carry a wide selection of e-books, many more excellent e-books aren’t available in those stores because the publisher doesn’t have enough titles in its inventory or otherwise doesn’t meet the bookstore’s criteria.
  • There is no standard format for e-books. Most publishers offer a selection of several formats. While that makes it more likely that you will find the format you prefer, the number of choices makes shopping more complex. There are various movements to standardize e-books, but there hasn’t been enough progress.

On the other hand, e-books have many more advantages, including these:

  • E-books are easier for the visually impaired and people with other handicaps to read. Many people prefer larger fonts as they age, and some people find it difficult to hold a print book.
  • The lower cost of e-books lets avid readers stretch their book budget. As mentioned earlier, not all publishers sell e-books at a lower price, but electronic publishers do.
  • E-books don’t take up space like print books. If I ever get rich, I’d love to have a huge library filled with beautiful first-edition books. But for now, my library fits in few megabytes on my hard drive.
  • E-books are immediately available. If I want a new book at 3 AM, I can place my order online, download the book, and start reading in a matter of minutes.
  • It’s easier to find something a little different. The large print publishers want books to fit certain genre conventions so bookstores can shelve them in the right place. If you like comedic horror mysteries or something equally out-of-the-mainstream, you’re likely it to find e-books you’ll enjoy. Of course, you can also find plenty of books that fit the genre conventions if that’s what you prefer.
  • Electronic devices make it easy to carry a large number of books and read anywhere. I’ll discuss more in the next post.

Although I read e-books almost exclusively, I do buy print books. But if the book is available as an e-book, I’ll read the e-book version and add the print edition to my collection of autographed books.

In the next post, I’ll talk about e-book reading devices.

Related Posts:
Read an E-Book Week
Self-Publishing Primer: Part 13 – Do I need a Web site – and should I make my book available as an e-book?

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