Business

More benefits to digital self publishing

BY ALICIA ROACHE Sunday Finance reporter roachea@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 23, 2010    

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WITH the publishing industry undergoing a fundamental shift to digital publishing through e-book readers such as Amazon's Kindle and Apple's iPad, and publishers such as Barnes & Noble and Google, now is a great time for writers to think of digital self-publishing.

So game changing is digital publishing that the 40-year book retail giant Barnes & Noble on Wednesday announced that it would be launching by summer, its digital publishing platform PubIt! a digital publishing and distribution platform for independent and self publishers. Pubit! will give writers access to the Barnes and Noble eBookstore which is said to have millions of customers. Barnes and Noble also noted that PubIt! will be compatible to many e-book readers such as the Nook, iPhone, iPod touch, the iPad, BlackBerry, Mac and the PC.

The digital development, said local writers and self publishers Tanya Batson Savage and Kellie Magnus, has made the cost of self-publishing far more practical and affordable, even for local writers. It will inevitably extend the reach of the book to millions worldwide at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional brick and mortar publishers and book stores.

The iPad alone has the potential to tap into more than 125 million itunes customers, a fraction of the true potential of the e-book market. Additionally, Google, with over a billion visits per day, is expected to begin selling its own e-books later this year.

Magnus said she has spent "entirely too much" so far on publishing her Little Lion series of books, especially given the cost of printing in full colour. Batson Savage, self published her collection of children's stories, Pumpkin Belly and other stories, and has since published a collection of poems, 11/9, for writer Mel Cooke. She said even though the poetry book comprised 51 pages, it cost less to produce than her 28 page children's book, which was all colour. Pumpkin Belly, she said, cost about $250,000, even contribution from friends.

"Books are very particular things. It's not like pressing a CD," she said of the variation in costs.

However, not so much with digital publishing.

"The digital publishing market might give self publishing a boost," Batson-Savage said. "If you kick out the printing guy, you kick out the majority of your costs... Kindle and iPad became game changers," she said.

Indeed, because e-books don't require paper, printing presses, storage space or delivery trucks, they typically cost less to produce. But they generally also sell for less than half the price of a bound book.

Authors frustrated with the high cost of the traditional format have turned to digital self-publishing in the format of a web blog, which they can opt to compile into a bound book later. Others are taking a much more unconventional route, through Excel and on Twitter, with each 'tweet' being an episode in the novel, said Batson-Savage.

With digital self publishing, the writer also opens up the physical boundaries inherent in traditional forms of publishing.

"Geography is irrelevant," Magnus said, adding "You can go on Amazon and do it the same way that a man in Kansas would do it."

She also said that whatever the format chosen, self-publishing must be seen as a business with all the necessary processes from product creation to consumption being planned well.

Some of that planning is being done by digital publishers Random Media, which is currently testing digitising books by Caribbean authors so that they can reach a wider market via the web. The digital publishing market in the Caribbean is in its nascent stages, but has the potential to tap into the wider international ebook market with the new players. In general, electronic books are still in their infancy, comprising an estimated three to five per cent of the market today, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Random media says its goal is to make sure that Caribbean content leverages digital channels to bring money back into the Caribbean countries.

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