After ranting about the wonder that is e-books it has just occurred to me why most of my friends aren't getting the revolutionary aspect of this technological shift. However, anyone reading this blog should have a good idea. But in case you don't -
The real impact of e-books
Launching a paper book costs a great deal of money. As the reading public tightens its belt publishers are more and more inclined to go with sure things, things in the vein of previous sure things and very occasionally something they believe (often erroneously) will be the next sure thing. People who write good entertaining stories that don't happen to have picked up on what the next sure thing is (recent ones include angst, misery, child murder, terrorism, angst, utter misery and yet more angst) aren't considered to have the cache of a breakthrough novel and therefore don't stand much of a chance of making it into the print market.
But now e-publishers, who can have just as good an eye as a print publisher (often a better and less angst obsessed eye), and who aren't so inhibited by finance, can take risks on new authors. I admit e-publishers are currently coming and going by the hour, but there are some who are staying - some who have been around for years. As e-publishers build up loyalty and reputation for sourcing new good work so the world expands a thousand fold for all those mildly published, yet to be published, those who have sunk to the bottom of the midlist and those who like writing less angst-ridden stories. (Can you tell I'm not a fan of angst? Dear gods, sometimes I just want entertainment from a book! If I want angst I can read my to-do list.)
And yes, some writers are already making a living from writing e-books alone. I know a lot of people don't believe this, but it's true. No-one I know in Britain yet, but across the pond they're going great guns.
And ultimately what's good for writers is good for readers. Like everyone else I've wandered into a bookstore and flicked hopelessly through the same-ish summer reads longing to find a 21st Century version of the wonderful (and sadly deceased) Robertson Davies, a new crime series that isn't embedded in blood, forensics and alcohol or a children's read that isn't about fairies or pirates (though a fairy pirate might be worth reading). E-publishing for both publisher and reader is an inexpensive option of experimenting with new writers. This, for me, is the real beauty and promise of the new ethereal world of the e-book.
More in The Independent on Waterstone's decision to sell the sony e-book reader here.