If you believe print is on the way out, Laura Miller wants you to think again. In Salon this week, she uses Simon & Schuster’s recent deal with ebook phenom Hugh Howey, author of the “Wool” series, to suggest that, contrary to the myth that self-publishing represents a leveling of the playing field, many presses are thrilled to take advantage of such low-hanging fruit.
“By the time a self-published author has made a success of his or her book,” Miller observes, “all the hard stuff is done, not just writing the manuscript but editing and the all-important marketing. Instead of investing their money in unknown authors, then collaborating to make their books better and find them an audience, publishers can swoop in and pluck the juiciest fruits at the moment of maximum ripeness.”
More important, Miller traces what appears to be a flattening of the ebook market (at around 25% of total book sales) and the resurgence of the independent bookstore as a first point of contact for readers unsatisfied with one-click buys.
“If print could talk,” she writes, “it would surely be telling the world, Mark Twain-style, that reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. The market for e-books grew exponentially after Amazon introduced the Kindle, and it’s still one of the most fascinating and unpredictable sectors of a once hidebound industry. But the early-adapter boom is showing signs of flagging and the growth of the e-book market appears to be leveling out. E-books are definitely here to stay, but it seems that many, many readers — a threefold majority, in fact — still prefer print.”