frypans, popcorn and the future of publishing

I dreamt that I saw a huge rocket. Possibly a Saturn 5, but to be honest I lost interest in rocket building around the age of ten. Anyway, this was the classic rocket taking off; the moment when the support structures fall away and the sleek white rocket rises like a massive anaemic hotdog trailing flame behind it. Molten mustard with streaks of sauce.
Only, this particular rocket was being launched from a massive frypan and as its fiery trail intensified there came the sound of loud popping. The sound was irregular but it kept up, getting louder to the point where it drowned out the noise being made by the rocket itself. I blocked my ears with both hands but it was no use. The heat and noise were terrific until a dense white shower shot out of the frypan and drenched me…in hot, buttered popcorn, with just a bit of salt.
That was when I knew that the future of publishing would be eBooks. But not necessarily eBooks that could be enhanced to the point that they might emit popcorn or other snack foods.
Then again, given the rate of technological change who can say for sure what may be available to readers in 5, 10 or 15 years?
What we can say at this point in time is that eBooks have already been a great success and will continue to feature largely in the future of publishing.
In 2012, total eBook sales in the USA reached $3.04 billion.
This was an increase of 44.2% on the previous year.
The really good news for writers like myself was that the big publishers, Random House and HarperCollins, saw the sci-fi, mystery and fantasy genres as having the most appeal for readers of digital publications. To be fair, I should mention that the romance genre was also identified as another potential leader in the eBook revolution.
From the publishers’ perspective eBooks offer an immediate way to make money and to test a title’s appeal to readers before proceeding to publish in print.
However, it would be irresponsible not to mention that there have also been some indications of a slowing down in eBook sales.
In July 2013, Nielsen reported that we appear to be reaching the end of ‘the explosive period’ of digital reading growth. So those of you with two iPads or Kindles should hang your heads in shame.
Sales of eBooks to April 2013 fell for the first time. Nielson attributed the fall to the fact that there was no Hunger Games-like title to fire up the young adult sector of the market and thus result in high sales. It is also possible that Hunger Games sales were a freak occurrence.
At the same time figures indicated that eBook sales would overtake sales of printed books sometime in 2014. Yeah!
And so we come to the point of this somewhat rambling discourse.
One of our assessment tasks (in the Bachelor of Writing and Publishing course at NMIT) is to design and produce an eBook.
Some of the technologically challenged students have questioned both the wisdom and necessity for this impost. I say we should question no more!
Obviously, it is useful for a writer to know and understand the publishing process.
More importantly, a writer needs to be aware of reader preferences and in particular, the more popular genres.
The much derided 50 Shades of Grey is a case in point. Nobody could have seen that one coming, that is, until it arrived and then its success was underscored by the popularity of the two sequels.
If the potential to make money leaves you feeling a little dirty I can only say, build a bridge and get over it. Even Gandalf managed to do that and look where he ended up.
There can be no finer satisfaction for a writer then to see their work appreciated and the bucks rolling in.
Fantasy? Possibly.
But eBooks are clearly no flash in the pan.
The corn is ready to pop.
We have to take the eBook option very, very seriously.

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