From the Neanderthals who left hand prints on the cavern walls of El Castillo, Spain more than 37,000 years ago, to the G.I.’s crude drawings of a long-nosed fellow peering over a fence announcing, “Kilroy was here,” humans have sought immortality through art. The same impulse that drives the graffiti tagger in Los Angeles drives the white-haired Hamptons matron to pen a letter to the local newspaper about animal leash laws: a desire to be seen, heard, and remembered.
The digital revolution gives us an opportunity to communicate and disseminate ideas, concepts, and opinions without intermediation. Today, every wannabe Stephen King, Tom Brokaw, or Larry McMurtry can write and publish as they please. Grandfathers and grandmothers can pass down family stories to younger generations. The entire world has an opportunity to become both more knowledgeable and more expressive than ever before.
Technology and Self-Publishing
The first electronic book – Peter James’ thriller “Host” – appeared on two floppy disks in 1993 and sold 12,000 copies. Five years later, the first e-readers appeared with mediocre market success. Amazon, the world’s largest book retailer, introduced the Kindle reader to America in 2007, forever changing the dynamics of book publishing. Today, electronic books can be viewed on a variety of readers, mobile phones, tablets, and computers.
In the first quarter of 2012, net sales of ebooks exceeded hardcover sales across the industry for the first time. While paperback books remain the industry’s most popular format, their dominance is likely short-lived – according to Mashable, Amazon’s ebook sales surpassed paperbacks in the fourth quarter of 2011. The reason for the ebook’s dominance is clear: Production costs are lower and profits are higher (despite the fact that ebooks typically sell for less than half of what hardcovers sell for).
With the full support of Amazon, authors have rebelled against traditional publishing houses, seeking a higher percentage of royalties or threatening to publish on their own – Bowker Identifier Services claims that self-published book titles grew 60% from 2011 to 2012 alone. Writers who never thought they would be able to publish are taking advantage of the new technology.
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