Back in 2008, I wrote on this blog:
The history of mankind is rife with examples of ideas, inventions and social policies that were originally considered foolhardy but are now mainstream....I predict that trajectory for publishing. Soon digital printing, e-books and publishing formats we haven't heard of yet will be the order of the day. It's a long uphill road, but a lot has happened in the last few years and movement is accelerating.
For example, back in 2003 The Rocky Mountain Writer, the newsletter of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers reported on a roundtable discussion where local editors and agents commented on publishing trends. They asked the panelists, "Is there a future for e-publishing and/or POD?" The unanimous answer was an emphatic No! In fact, one panelist suggested that, if an author’s contract with a publisher mentions POD, “run like your hair’s on fire!”
Fast forward to January 2008...more than three-quarters of the approximately 200,000 books published in this country each year are self-published or published by a small press. And eBooks are taking off. Amazon already has over 99,000 books available for sale to readers who use their Kindle, which only came out in December.
Wow! Let's fast forward again to 2011. Amazon now has nearly a million books available for the Kindle, and reports that last summer it sold 180 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books. Barnes&Noble has more than two million titles for the Nook. Then there's the Sony Reader, Apple iPad, and more. Digital books are definitely taking off.
The digital edition of Steig Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has sold a million copies, according to yesterday's New York Times -- a first for an e-book. The combined digital sales for all three books in Larsson's popular trilogy is now more than three million.
I have a Kindle and I love it, but what I love more about digital publishing is the way it levels the playing field. Any author or publisher can create and sell a Kindle version of their books through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing and/or release other e-book versions through Smashwords. You don't even need an ISBN number, except for distribution to Apple.
I'm not saying it's easy. The formatting of your manuscript for digital release takes some work. But Smashwords has a free style guide you can download in pdf. And April Hamilton offers a free pdf IndieAuthor Guide for publishing with Amazon Kindle. I carefully followed the instructions in both of these guides and got six PMI Books titles up for Amazon's Kindle and in the Smashwords Premium Catalog (for distribution to B&N Nook, Sony Reader, Apple iPad and more).
It takes some time and patience to do the formatting, but that's really nothing compared to the time and patience it takes to repeatedly query agents and publishers in an attempt to get your book out through traditional publishers.
How things have changed! Thanks to digital printing and e-books, today's writers—unlike those in past generations—all have the opportunity to have their work published, read, and listed for sale on online bookstores right along with traditionally published books. Jump on the roller coaster. You won't be sorry!