Yesterday, SuperAgent Matt Wagner Tweeted a link to Peter Osnos’ take on eBooks. Is SuperAgent Wagner oddly tooting his own funeral dirge? Or is Matt Wagner sensing an opportunity on the horizon the rest of us are unable to envision?
Here’s the most fascinating part of Osnos’ argument:
Another important indicator of acceptance of digital delivery is last week’s report on 2008 results from OverDrive, the dominant distributor of eBooks and digital audio to libraries. OverDrive said that downloads of digital material to the 8,500 libraries it supports exceeded 10 million items. The number of new users increased by 45 percent over results for 2007…
So the eBook has landed. The printed book is not disappearing either, even if it is increasingly in competition with digital delivery. This is a very difficult time in the traditional brick and mortar marketplace, as the results at Barnes & Noble and other booksellers make very clear. For a variety of reasons, these stores are still skeptical of or even hostile to digital delivery, which means that customers will go elsewhere to find what they want. Overall, the increasing acceptance of all these new ways to get and books is a definite plus for the cherished act of reading, and it doesn’t seem too Panglossian to conclude that there are better days ahead.
Does this signal the end of days for traditional hardcopy book publishing as we know it? The industry is already bleeding and dry — the tombstones just haven’t been set dead in print yet.
If the trend in publishing is away from bound books and into the convenience of eBooks — what happens to the Agent and the Publisher in the traditional triangulation of intra-dependence with the Author?
Authors can now publish and perish on their own terms — selling their work on the Kindle is a simple file upload — so where does the Agent take a station in the eBook landscape and why does an Author need a Publisher to promote and distribute their work when most working Authors already pay for their own proprietary distribution system in the frame of server space and the context of bandwidth costs.
What is the argument against Authors writing and promoting their books and directly downselling to their own customer base: Copyright remains inherent and intact, 100% of profits are retained, and the distribution pipeline is already virally pre-tagged, proprietary, protected, and self-controlled.