E is for eBooks
For decades, the music industry believed that what they sold were albums (on vinyl and then on CD). When mp3s became a standard electronic file format for audio files, the music studios had no idea what to do. The idea that they were selling music seemed to elude them. Now things have started to settle out a bit, and you can buy music online from a number of retailers. But not so long ago, the only way you could buy music was to buy their album product or pirate the content. For years, I would play the CDs I bought once — when I ripped them to iTunes so I could put the mp3 files onto my iPod. We’re seeing similar things now in the book industry, which is only now starting to wake up to the fact that they are in fact selling writing, not the physical package of the writing we call “books.”
eBooks really kind of brought that to the fore. At first, people were skeptical — I was skeptical. But lots of people loved this easier, quicker, convenient way to buy and read books. It was about the content, not about the package.
Of course there’s still packaging involved, but the means to create that packaging are not restricted to the deep-pocketed few. Meanwhile, authors are finding that their readers are much closer, much more within reach directly in the market than ever before.
Of course, ebooks represent a minority of overall book sales (or so we suspect). But the paradigm has shifted. We are not selling packages created by publishers. We are selling writing created by authors.