Back on Decmeber 29, Publisher’s Weekly reported that in each week of December over 1 million Kindles were sold. Sales of e-books also reportedly broke records. In the period from Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) to Christmas Day, the “gifting” of Kindle books alone was up 175% over the same period in 2010. Christmas Day was the biggest day ever for e-book sales, and my family was among the eager buyers as we helped my son download some books for his brand new Kindle. Finally, what were the two best-selling Kindle books of 2011? Two self-published efforts, as a matter of fact: Darcie Chan’s The Mill River Recluse and Chris Culver’s The Abbey.
This was all pretty much expected. Beginning with the explosion in e-reader and e-book sales last Christmas Season, the year 2011 continued to be an annus mirabilis for electronic reading and the self-publishing it inspires. David Gaughran, a self-pubbed author who maintains a fantastic blog on the self-publishing world, Let’s Get Digital, has written this vivid summary of a year that in future will no doubt be considered a watershed year in the publishing industry. Among the compelling facts cited by Gaughran is that starting in February of 2010, e-books for the first time became the dominant format, outselling both hardbacks and paperbacks, and capturing an astounding 29.5% market share. In May Amazon announced that it was now selling more e-books than all print formats combined. In June J.K. Rowling announced the coming launch of her Pottermore website (still coming, in fact), where the Harry Potter e-books will be sold exclusively for the first time. In the midst of these sea changes the traditional publishing world began to reel. As Gaughran puts it: “The old order was fragmenting, and something messy and chaotic (and beautiful) was emerging in its stead.”
I mention all this not out of spite against traditional publishing and traditional books. Of course, innumerable excellent books continue to be brought out by traditional publishers. And I love my hardbound books. The shelves in my office are bursting with them, and many of them are real treasures both in terms of content and design. I suspect that I will always continue to buy them.
So I don’t take the rise of the e-book as creating an either/or situation with traditional books. For me, they make for a delightful both/and.
Still, I’d like to tell you why I love this electronic revolution in reading. First of all, reading in bed is so much more enjoyable! No more having to keep moving the book or switching positions in order to get a comfortable angle on the page. With the e-reader’s single screen, everything is always right there in front of me. I adjust the pillows once, and off I go…
But seriously, I love this electronic revolution primarily for the artistic freedom it affords. The new technology has given an outlet to scads of self-published writers hungry for an audience, an audience they can invite to read their work without having to go through the middlemen of traditional agents and publishers. To the argument that the rise of self-publishing has also unleashed upon an unsuspecting world legions of awful books, one can only retort: so also has traditional publishing. A New York imprimatur does not guarantee excellence. If a self-published author is not quite ready for prime time on your e-reader, then you can be the judge and stop buying his or her books.
This past summer I began Trojan Tub Entertainment with a rather simple desire to get my work quickly out to the world. But the deeper I got into developing the company, the more I became excited about this e-book revolution that was crackling all around me. I sensed that I was in the middle of a huge cultural change. I thought that, inevitably, children would be reading more and more on electronic devices. I guessed that especially when Pottermore launched, children and young readers would bond with digital books like never before.
I believe my hunches were right, and I’m very proud that my Patria series is (more or less just slightly behind) the forefront of this messy, chaotic and beautiful creative impetus in the world of publishing. And not just because it’s cool being on the cutting edge. But because this, the virtual space in which people more and more are choosing to congregate, is where the children and families (and adults!) are with whom I wish to share my writing. The rise of the e-book has allowed me the chance to create a little electronic enclave with this audience—with you!—and that is an opportunity I simply cannot pass up.
Yesterday GigaOM, a technology blog, made this prediction that 2012 would be the year of the artist-entrepreneur. With distribution chains in the arts and entertainment world collapsing across all content areas, and with the changes in technology democratizing content creation, the tech-savvy entrepreneur is poised to make his or her voice well heard in the year ahead. I for one can’t wait to be a part of it.
If you’d like to join me, then go ahead and dive into the Kingdom of Patria website, and venture over to the homepage to download the first book in my Patria series of humorous adventures for middle grade readers: Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits. If you like the book, think about penning a short review for the book’s page on Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, or iTunes (a few sentences will do). Self-published authors depend upon good reviews perhaps even more than do other authors, so I would appreciate anything you can manage.
The second book in the Patria series, Stoop of Mastodon Meadow, will be released very early here in 2012. You can find a synopsis and the cover art here. Thoughts on these are welcome.
My best wishes to everyone, especially all you artist-entrepreneurs, for a New Year 2012 full of blessings and beautiful works of art. Let me know how things are going for you, and I’ll meet you back here soon!