Small publishers baffled and worried by e-books

A publishing panel put together by UKFast has come across as wary and skeptical of the e-book mini-boom.

E-publishing, while democratising the writing and publishing process, does bring with it a set of questions. For example, why is the progress of the e-book, the panel wondered, slow compared to when the mp3 became a popular format for music? 

One independent author, Mark Cantrell, voiced concerns about losing control over his work. “I don’t want all of my work stored in the big corporate cloud and controlled by the big corporations,” he told the panel. “I simply would not trust all of my data with a big corporation.”

Kevin Duffy, of Blue Moose Publishing, agreed that there are questions regarding who actually owns the data. “The problem with the Kindle is that you do not own any of thecontent that you download, and they can take it away from you at any point,” Duffy said. 

He pointed to an example in Germany where a man was reading a copy of 1984 on his Kindle and it suddenly disappeared from the device – because of copyright problems with the version. Like with DRM, increasingly users want to feel that they own what they paid for, rather than paying money to enter an agreement where they can use it as the publisher feels fit.

A spokesperson for Cognitive Publishing said that the price point is the issue. Once you own a Kindle or other e-book reader, the cost is low for getting content to the device. But the initial hurdle of forking out at least £100 for the privilege can put people off. 

A publisher we spoke to said that the Kindle is incredibly useful in that line of work, because it does away with having to lug around heavy bags full of copy. But she still liked books. 

Another, Sara Slack of Inspired Quill, said she’s worried that the democracy of self publishing is diluting the reading gene pool. “People who are passionate and really care about their work are lost in a sea of mediocrity,” she claimed. 

We would argue that the trouble with the Kindle is that it looks rather uninspiring perched between two bookends. Hipsters agree that aesthetics are a problem – how are other commuters supposed to know you’re reading Mikhail Bulgakov without a front cover?