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The E-Book: An Important New Direction in Publishing?

© 2000 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

As artists, writers, and publishers using the Internet, we have all heard about e-books, yet there seems to be little e-book awareness in the popular press. Why? There are several reasons: no major player has caught the fancy of general-interest editorial staff, the methods used to create and deliver e-books are still in flux, and the questions of appropriate royalties and pricing remain open.

E-Book Format

E-books available today range from simple text files to html files to Adobe pdf files to full-fledged multimedia extravaganzas. Some e-books are meant only for viewing on a full-size computer monitor, while others are built for printing, and others are formated especially for the Rocket Book or the Palm Pilot.

E-Book Delivery

Consider e-book delivery systems: E-books can be sold on CDs or even floppies, so those delivery systems are reasonably straightforward for people who are somewhat familiar with a computer. E-books can also be sold in downloadable files. As long as a downloadable purchase process is streamlined and carefully explained, downloadable delivery can be a boon to both the purchaser and the publisher.

E-Book Royalties and Prices

At last report, the major print publishers were offering the usual print royalties or even less in royalty to authors who agreed to be published in e-book format. At the same time, those publishers were charging hard-cover prices for e-books. This seems unnecessarily greedy, doesn't it?

E-Book Costs Versus Hardcover Costs

An e-book delivered online as a file will require editing and formatting, but it will not require an expensive print run or storage of the resulting books. An e-book delivered online doesn't even have any shipping costs after the delivery system has been set up.

Of course, an e-book on a CD does involve duplication costs, but those are lower than hard-cover printing, and CD storage takes no more than one quarter the space required for book storage. Shipping costs for feather-light CDs are lower than for hardcover books.

The price of an e-book should reflect the publisher's lower costs. As the word

spreads in the popular media that e-books are available at reasonable prices, and e-books are available for immediate gratification by download, the real e-book groundswell will begin.

SPAWN will be part of that e-book groundswell as we offer our members a chance

to publish their books in e-book format. Watch this space for details very soon.

~ Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. is an Information Architect who publishes both in print and online. Contact her at or visit her Web site at



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