Self publishing advocates clamor for cheap cheap cheap when it comes to ebooks. The argument goes, basically, just look at the costs! I can put an ebook online for less than $500; in fact, I can pop it up on Amazon or BN.com for free! There’s no paper; there’s no binding; there’s no production. Why not make all books accessible to the masses, price them low as possible and make books truly a medium of the people, by the people and for the people?
Because in doing so you destroy what you love.
Even Jeffrey Trachtenberg, in his WSJ article today about the “less expensive” nature of digitized books that is already zooming around the Twitterverse misses the point. Mike Shatzkin comes much closer to my point of view, but perhaps with less personal investment. This feels personal to me, this devaluing of the medium in which I’ve invested a lifetime.
I believe in equality and fair play in access to education, health care and opportunity. I believe in innovation and forward-thinking. And I believe that not all books, and not all writers are created equal.
Whether by natural gift or by many years of hard work and schooling, the work of those relatively rare writers once filtered through to the public only by traditional publishers** still deserve to be lauded, paid, promoted, edited and wrapped in a package that signifies something special. Cheap ebooks leave no room to pay for this, and level not only the playing field, but the stands and the bleachers and even the parking lot. Everyone plays…and everyone loses.
(Here’s my comment on the article.)
**A clarification–I also believe the large corporations that turned a lovely little industry populated by many small & mid-size publishers into the current “Big Six” behemoth landscape do indeed close the doors to many deserving authors. Self publishing and small presses are now necessities. But driving down ebook prices for all is not the answer.