Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Franzen and the Ebook Bubble

A lot (dozens) of people have emailed me or left comments about two semi-related articles.

One concerns author Jonathan Franzen, and his comments about ebooks.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/30/jonathan-franzen-ebooks-values?newsfeed=true

The other is a UK article about the supposed ebook bubble.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/30/self-e-publishing-bubble-ewan-morrison

Franzen's thoughts, and the whole "bubble" idea, amuse me. But let me assure ebook authors everywhere that there is nothing to be alarmed about.

One of Franzen's quotes is:


"Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do."

Good for him. But his opinion is hardly universal. Amazon supposedly sold 6 million Kindle Fires in the last three months.

The grand literati concept of "Story" with a capital S has nothing to do with the media that delivers it. The story doesn't exist on paper. Or as e-ink, or screen pixels, or even mp3 audio compression.

The Story exists in the reader's/listener's head.

I anticipated this reaction of Luddites and paper fetishists two years ago.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/02/you-can-pry-my-paper-books-from-my-cold.html

Franzen could have saved himself from looking silly by reading my blog. But the same can be said about scores of writers, agents, and publishers, and it is my flawed conceit that logic, common sense, and hard data can change people's minds.

“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.” - Jacob M. Braude

It is worth noting here that I was once, pre-Kindle, 100% against self-publishing. I changed my mind as new data came in.

But I digress.

As for the ebook bubble, I put this meme to bed and rocked it to everlasting sleep a year ago:

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/03/ebooks-aint-bubble.html

So what have we learned, other than the fact that I'm eerily prescient?

1. People fear change. When change happens, they dig in like ticks and try to defend their long-held and closely-cherished beliefs. (BTW, another term for long-held/closely cherished belief is prejudice. And prejudice ain't good.)

2. The same memes about ebooks keep getting circulated again and again and again because folks are too lazy to do any kind of simple research to inform their opinions.

3. Ebooks are going to follow the examples set by the music, movie, and TV industries. The future is digital, and anyone who disagrees with that is seriously out of touch with reality.

So all you ebook self-pubbers out there: ignore the alarmists. There are always doomsayers and Luddites and nostalgia whores who bitch and moan when new technologies take over. But they don't matter. Because new technologies don't care if some folks resist them--they take over anyway.

Now go get some writing done and self-publish the hell out of it. Trust me. I'm right a lot.*

*(Actually, you should trust no one, and figure this shit out for yourself with research and experimentation.)