E-Books, Self-Publishing, and the Future of the “Book”

David Nygren of the Urban Elitist continues his analysis of the e-book. (Yes, I know: Why is a middle-aged Iowan is reading the blog of a Brooklyn hipster? What can I say? Good ideas transcend age and geography.)

His current blog entry is a delight: an idea-packed stroll through the possibilities of promoting/selling a self-published e-book. There’s much to consider in his post, but I especially like his idea of serialization. As he notes, serialization was once a common mode of delivering books to readers.

In the 19th century, for example, writers routinely published their work as serials, with installments appearing on a regular basis in a specific magazine or newspaper. Many were authors no one has heard of since then, but among the better-known who published this way were Anthony Trollope (one of my favorite writers) and Charles Dickens. (Film studios, by the way, adopted the model in the 1920s: those “shorts” the preceded the main movie were short serial films whose plot continued from week to week.)

So why not bring back the serialized book? Have it delivered in chunks to your email inbox or Ipod or Kindle? Great idea! (The folks at dailylit.com are doing something similar with books in the public domain.)

David also points out that writers who go the way of self-pubbed e-books will need a “hook,” something that will grab the reader fast so he/she will decide to buy the entire work (delivered in one piece or serially).

Here’s one way to do that: writers could cooperate in operating a communal “storefront.” The would-be reader visits the site, and “grabs” for free maybe the first five hundred or a thousand words of the book. If the buyer likes what she’s read, she can then pay for the entire book. The money would go directly into the writer’s account.

Anyway, as David notes, once writers AND readers get past the idea of the conventional publishing model (agents and publishing houses and physical objects sold in “real” stores), there’s no limit to where creativity can take the new e-model for publishing and reading.

Again, there’s plenty there for both readers and writers. Take a look.

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