Ray Bradbury once said that there are three great adventures: being born, living, and dying. Last night Bradbury embarked on that last great adventure when he died at his Los Angeles home at the age of 91.
Bradbury not only had a profound influence on my writing style, but his book The Martian Chronicles inspired me to start writing in the first place. We exchanged a few letters in the 80s and early 90s, and I found him to be an approachable and generous man.
The first time I wrote him, I sent him a copy of the college thesis I’d written about him and his early work: Ray Bradbury: Space Age Visionary. In less than a week I received a note of thanks along with galleys for a new book of criticism of his work another author was publishing.
My first inclination when I heard of Bradbury’s passing was to take time off and read some of his stories in honor of his memory. But I immediately realized that the best memorial to a man who got physically sick if he didn’t write at least two pages every day would be to write. So as soon as I post this, I’ll go back to work on my novel. I’ll read some of his stories later.
Nick Sherry, Australia’s Minister for Small Business, said he believes that within five years online shopping will effectively kill general bookstores, and only specialty bookstores in major cities will remain. This prediction upset lots of people, especially since the Minister made the statement at an event that was designed to encourage small businesses to expand their online footprints.
As you may know, I predicted in an earlier post that ebooks eventually would phase out paper books. But the Minister is not suggesting that people will stop buying paper books; he’s saying they’ll buy their books online.
I think five years is pushing it, whether for phasing out paper books or bookstores. Although people are buying more and more merchandise online, changes this radical happen slowly. I’d give it 50 to 100 years. The younger generation, those youthful whippersnappers who grew up using computers (like my son, Sean, who was computer savvy before he entered kindergarten) will drive this change. Five years seems awful quick. Fifty to 100 years will give society the time it needs to adjust.
For more about reaction to the Minister’s announcement, read the Sydney Morning Herald article.
This is in response to a blog post in which Laura L. Cooper suggested that the popularity of ebooks will plateau within a few years and that ebooks will never replace physical books.
I’ve already seen a response or two to that post, one person comparing ebooks to automobiles; no one ever thought cars would catch on, either. I agree with that assessment.
One certain thing is change. Technology will change, culture with change, people will change.
I started writing on a Remington portable typewriter. When I was in high school, the school had a computer. A computer. It was kept in a room in the office. We were taken down in groups to look at it.
At that time, who could have predicted how computers would permeate our society?
Who could have predicted that automobiles would replace horses and carriages?
Who could have predicted that big-box stores would replace neighborhood groceries, dry goods, and hardware stores?
Ebooks are not a passing fad. They have many advantages over physical books:
People today (and this will be even more true in the future) are pressed for time, they are mobile, they like to do all their shopping in one place, and they are impatient – they want something, and they want it now. This is why the big-box stores like Wal-Mart and ShopKo have become such fixtures in our society. This is why computer technology is an integral part of our lives. This is why we drive cars instead hitching horses to buggies.
For now, many people prefer physical books; printed books still account for 80% or more of book sales. At one time you could make a similar statement about the horse and buggy in relation to that upstart, the automobile.
Today, physical books are the choice of the majority of readers. But let’s revisit this question in 100 years.
Ebooks are not a passing fad. The popularity of ebooks will not plateau.
Ebooks represent the next stage in the evolution of publishing.
As little as a decade ago self-publishing was a stigma. The industry and the public viewed it as something one did out of desperation, when one could not get one’s books published by traditional means.
In the past few years, particularly with the growing popularity of e-books, that has been changing. And now thriller writer Barry Eisler, author of the popular John Rain novels, has given self-publishing a tremendous boost. Eisler turned down Minotaur’s $500,000 offer for two books and plans to self-publish his next novel as an e-book because, he said, he believes in the long run self-publishing will be more financially lucrative.
In a conversation with self-publishing guru Joe Konrath, Eisler talks about his reasons for his decision. It’s a lengthy conversation but well worth the time for anyone who is considering self-publishing.