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The picture above – it wont happen soon. That is my first book Mantramala which has just come out in second edition – but in print since its too big a book for ebook. And my only print book is the only book no longer available because – here we go again.
The covid virus lockdown has shaken up the book trade. Bookshops have sadly pulled down their shutters. Books are considered non essentials and so you can’t just order the latest one from your favourite author right now. Well, actually you can – let me explain that.
The book world has split into two and strangely enough the sides seem to diverge even further. I am watching both because I have one foot in either camp.
It happened with the advent of ebooks. Until then the writers path was very clear – you wrote your book and then you wrote those endless query letters trying not to sound like begging, to agents and publishers. It took me five years to get a publisher for my first book. In those days there was no option but to find a publisher.
Then came the whispers – something was happening which might upend the whole time tested business method. The whisper was about ebooks – and they were unstoppable.
Ebooks hit the book world hard. At first it was nothing but scorn for these impudent intruders. They were regarded rather like mice – a necessary evil you had to live with because there were just too many to exterminate.
There were many and getting to be more and more – and more. I dont know the number but you couldnt stock so many books on shelves even if you turned whole cities into libraries. And they were selling in quantities many did not want to admit.
Many in the old trade pretended they didnt exist. Many readers still dont even know they are an option. The book trade continued. People still bought print books – publishers still printed them.
Until covid brought everything to a dead stop. Bang. That business has run into a wall. There has been nothing like this before – this complete lockdown, the closure of bookstores, the impossibility of delivering print books since the online stores only deliver non essentials. Nothing like this has ever hit the book trade.
Everyone is in the same place, all around the world. Bookshops have closed – some may not open again. Many publishers are closed too – how to print, where to sell from with neither bookshops nor online deliveries functioning. If anything could bring the print book industry to its knees – that was the covid virus. I wonder who will survive – it does seem to me that many won’t.
Okay, let’s be clear – I am talking only about the print book trade. The publishers who did only print may or may not recover.
I am not talking of books because books are doing better than ever. There is another kind of book out there which floats unaffected. Ebooks sales are surging. Even publishers are looking at ebooks now.
Still, even with this standstill there are those who still don’t notice the world of ebooks. To them books are the ones made out of dead trees and glued together with dead animals. Thats a book.
Some readers are complaining, how can they stop delivering books? Even the bookshops are closed. What will we read?
Well, you know that Amazon and others have ebooks right? Do you know that it’s the same book, instantly delivered? The whole same book, in your hands in about a minute?
In the last month I have been asked this multiple times – is it difficult to download an ebook?
I realise the right answer to that is – it’s very difficult. The process itself is simple and anyone can do it. The mindset which allows you to do it is a mountain and going by the way people keep asking that same question year after year – it may well be insurmountable. The ‘I can’t’ barrier is the hardest to overcome.
As a writer I am hardly affected by this lockdown. My ebooks are available at a click as always. And as a reader, the biggest store in the world is right there and yes, I have bought and borrowed plenty of ebooks to read in this lockdown.
The best decision I took – five years ago – was to figure out how to publish an ebook on my own, writing, editing, proofing, cover art and uploading. Was it only five years? It seems a lifetime. The learning curve was very steep but very satisfying.
Today, I have 17 ebooks which continue to sell even when the print business has gone to almost zero. All it cost was the effort to write and publish them and, more important, the decision to take the path less trodden which has, yes it has, made all the difference.