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Books, Publishing

What is a book? The definition blurs!

It used to be so easy to define a book: a sheaf of bound printed pages. Then, the modern publishing industry defined all sorts of criteria of the printed volume – length, size, style, color, and cost to name a few. With the introduction of the digital book, that book definition is changing.

When adapting a destructive technology like digital books, the new technology initially retains symbols of the old technology as familiar user guides. Then, with the passage of time, familiar concepts fade away, replaced by new ideas and ways of accomplishing the task. Let’s take a quick look at each print book criteria and see how the digital revolution is re-imagining the book.

A traditional print publication is considered a book when it is long enough that a buyer is willing to pay enough to cover the costs of its creation. However, with our modern, short attention span, varied e-book lengths are now published. E-book pamphlets, single chapters (Amazon Singles), or even single short stories have been published at 99-cents or given away as loss leaders. Longer and complex e-books sell for $9.95 or more. Low production costs allow the e-book author to sell his work in any length with perceived quality and length shading the selling price.

Physical print book size is traditionally dictated by bookseller library shelf size. Print books are mostly a standard size with outsized books demanding greater prices, usually reserved for children’s books or coffee table tomes. However, physical size has no meaning with the e-book. Readers select a download e-reader format and the digital book fills that space – smart phone, Kindle, Nook, IPad or other screen sizes.

Book styles have been traditionally dictated by its bookshelf home. Leather bound hardcover books were proper for elegant settings while paperback romance novels were strewn about in abandon. With digital books, style is a reader choice. The e-reader user determines font, background color, and the format size with ease, limited only by the e-reader capability.

Paper color in traditional print books varies from brilliant white to specialty colors of most hues with mass market books printed on low cost, off-white paper. However, digital book color is e-reader user defined. Text color, background color and photo colors and styles can be varied to fit the mood or occasion.

Costs associated with printing, marketing, labor and transportation determines, in part, the final selling price of a printed book. Few of those costs are necessary for the digital book: only editing and promotion costs. So total e-book costs are very low, giving the publisher and author much greater opportunities for profit – if their readers value the product enough to pay a higher price.

And, I should note that all traditional book content offerings are available in the e-book format – from romances to academic textbooks. However, entirely new content offerings have appeared.

Blog postings and tweets that pertain to a particular subject have been successfully combined into e-books that are capturing large numbers of readers.

Experimental books have appeared that allow the reader to choose from multiple adventure paths to a unique ending– one chosen by options taken by the reader.

Magazine-like article books are available, complete with video and sound, interactive charts, and photos that enlarge with a click. Many of these magazine/books are frequently updated with new content and certainly capture the reader with a unique timely experience.

Lengthy or multi-volume books, traditionally discouraged as print books because of cost, are little problem for the e-book format. They only require a lengthy attention span of the reader, something that is becoming scarce.

So, the definition of the book continues to blur as traditional criteria has little meaning in the fledgling e-book world.

I guess the really impressive thought is that the rethinking process of converting print books into e-books is just a few years old. Only time will tell what exciting new offerings will become available.


About Pamlico Writers Group

This is a publication of the Pamlico Writers Group, created to help promote and advance writers skills along with expanding our groups membership and reach. Our aim on this site is to keep you our readers and participants aware of upcoming events. Topics covered during the year will be news regarding our annual Pamlico Writers Conference and Competition, co-sponsored with Arts of the Pamlico, discussion of and from our conferences, participants and group news. PWG's Steering Committee has finalized details for our 5th Annual Pamlico Writers Conference on March 17 & 18th, 2017 at The Turnage Theatre, 150 W. Main St., Washington, NC. This year's theme is "Words," Image and Story". Our Friday night keynote speaker this year will be Author, Teacher, Speaker, and Director of Lavenson Studios, Zelda Lockhart. For more information on Ms. Lockhart visit her website at: http://www.zeldalockhart.com/. For a complete schedule of Friday night and Saturday events, go to our website at: https://www.pamlicowritersgroup.wildapricot.org/. Be sure to check back often for more details of this and other events we have planned. The companion juried writing competition submissions opened on January 1, 2017. Winners are announced and an awards ceremony will be held during our Friday night Kick-Off Event. If you'd like more information on guidelines for entries, please go to our website: https://www.pamlicowritersgroup.wildapricot.org/ All registrations for both conference and/or entry into the competition will be made through our web site: https://www.pamlicowritersgroup.wildapricot.org/. Again, see site for complete details. Thank you for visiting! We hope to see you again soon. **If you are a writer interested in finding a critique group or other writers, we encourage you to come and join us. If you life at a distance please don't let that diswade you, we have several members who participate predominately on-line. Our meetings are the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month at 7:00 pm here in Washington, NC at the Turnage Theatre. We would love to hear from you regarding comments or ideas you have for the group. This blog is authored by members of our writer's group. Thank you for stopping by. See you soon, Kaylene Wilson Program Coordinator


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