I have been publishing ebooks for almost a year and the first thing I realised is that most people don’t even know what ebooks are. I am talking of India and a very modern city like Mumbai.
They say, I would love to read your book but I don’t have a kindle.
Do you have a smart phone, I ask them.
They do have a smart phone but hold it out helplessly, totally unaware of what to do with it. To make an account and download an ebook is almost beyond their capacities. They ask sons or grand daughters to do it.
Or just shrug because its too complicated to contemplate.
I can understand most people being unaware of the online world, but this applies not just to the usual person who uses an expensive smart phone for nothing but making calls to their children abroad – it applies to other writers as well.
It will take time, especially for writers who have been around for a while but ultimately, they will have to deal with this strange and confusing new world. Their old world is dying. Bookshops are closing. The single narrow and crowded road which lead to a publisher contract is getting lost amid the brand new highways which are opening up for writers. Yes, you can ignore it – but it won’t go away.
In my book club the word ‘book’ still means the print variety. Now, however, a few Kindles have appeared. Most readers still order their print copies online or search the few remaining – and shrinking – bookstores.
I don’t like reading an ebook, its very uncomfortable, some of them say. I like reading a real book.
They are probably hunched in front of a computer unaware that the easiest way to read is an ereader. Or even a smart phone or tablet. No use telling them about it.
It seems that, for most people, the very vast and rapidly overwhelming online ebookstores are invisible. For them its still the few shelves crammed between colouring and children’s books. That space grows smaller as chocolates and gadgets grab the shelves once devoted to shiny new bestsellers.
I have news for all those people.
Ebooks is a one way street. Once you start reading ebooks you are not going back. Once you start writing ebooks, you may add print books or even publisher books, but it will always be ebooks. Like most technological advances it goes only one way.
I am lucky to be here so early when the whale has not turned – though that is due – so I can get a ringside seat as the seasons of writing and publishing change. With one difference. The old ways will not be coming back.
One world will shrink and shrink until its a pale ghost of what it was. The other will expand exponentially until it grows so overwhelmingly huge that it just can’t be ignored. I leave it to you to guess which is which.