Having spearheaded the UI Press’ foray into eBooks, Jim McCoy sees the current eBook climate as a great opportunity for small presses. With such rapidly changing technology, the playing field is level for small and large publishers alike. “Writers, editors, and publishers are currently reacting to e-book technology which is being developed by IT companies. It will be our (publishers’) responsibility to have a say in what e-books become. Our technical resources are limited. Even the largest publishers can’t compete with Google or Apple on the engineering and development front, but we have to leverage the importance of our content to have a say in how e-books evolve,” says McCoy.
From a leisure studies perspective, David Gould looks at time Americans spend working versus time spent immersed in a book. eBooks could help equilibrate work-life balance. “We are an overworked society. We’re missing the rich experiences of spending time with a book. Reading a book involves a commitment of time. Will eBooks be a more rich form? Will there be more people reading? No one knows for sure. However, eBooks are instantly available. You don’t have to go to the store, wait for the book to be in stock, or wait for it to come in the mail. If a book is instantly available and comes in a very pleasing visual form, why wouldn’t you choose it?”
But printed books will continue to be an important part of our reading culture, says Russell Valentino. “As hard copy books become more rare, print audiences will become more insistent,” he says. “You can see how some people respond to having the printed book in hand. The fine arts crowd is interested in the quality of the paper, the tactile experience. In response, I believe some publishers will become more specialized. Paper won’t go away, it will become more valuable.”
Merrill agrees, seeing a place for both printed books and eBooks in the future. Whether eBooks can inspire will depend upon how well authors use the medium. “I hope that the deep reading experiences that lead to transformations will, in some fashion, continue. I believe they will. For those who can see what happens when different art forms, different media bump up against one another, this is an incredible environment in which to work. At its best, e-books will make for extraordinarily rich experiences.”
For more, click on the next chapter.