Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Essay: The eBook Revolution


The following is the essay I recently wrote for my Comp I class. I got 100 out of 100 on the essay so I thought I would post it. The assignment was to write a cause and effect essay about some new technology that is directed at an audience that is older and doesn’t fully understand newer technology.

The world is always changing. New life is being discovered in places humans never thought possible. Humans have always had a deep seeded need to push on and build up. From the Tower of Babel to the Titanic, mankind has always tried to reach new heights and test limits. When Bill Gates of Microsoft and Steve Jobs of Apple built the first personal computers I am certain the revolutionary dream was not lost on them. They pushed technology to new parameters. The computer age revolutionized the way we think. Humanity moved beyond the confines of the old ways. We disconnected phone lines and replaced them with cell phones. We tossed the records and switched to tapes then compact discs and now are keeping thousands of songs on one small device. The last bastion of the old world, the printed word, is still running strong but, like many other technologies in human history,  is under threat by innovation. EBooks are coming to the forefront of our lives. The eBook reader is becoming more prominent in the lives of humanity and is pushing the printed books out of our hands and into library rummage sales. If this revolution continues there will be a decline in printed book sales, creating an increase in self-published books and lowered production costs for major publishers.

               You may be asking yourself, what is an eBook? To answer that simply, it is a digitized book; digitized meaning that someone has transcribed the book on a computer to preserve it for the digital age. In 2004, an eBook reader, a device you can store these eBooks on to read whenever you want, was kind of a myth, something tech nerds call vaporware; a device the manufacturers keep promising to produce but never actually release. In 2005, Sony finally released the first eBook reader with a price tag of over $600. I am certain after seeing the interest sparked by this device, an internet book retailer, decided to create their own and in 2007 they released the first Kindle eBook reader. The Kindle had many features the Sony Reader did not have and had a lower price tag, just under $300. Before there were very few options available for purchasing eBooks but that changed with the Kindle. created a special store for eBooks purchases and allowed the user to even purchase eBooks from the Kindle device without having to use a computer. This breakthrough has caused a major shift in the book market and more people are buying eBooks. This trend is growing steadily. Paul S. Kemp a prominent science fiction/fantasy writer even said that “E-books are 50% of his net sales” and that the “percentage has been increasing every quarter” (@Paulskemp, 2011).

               This trend is, of course, a scary trend for “brick and mortar” stores like Borders or Barnes & Noble. The decrease in printed book sales is affecting their “bottom line” already. Borders themselves just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, stating “it expects to close about 30% of its more than 600 stores nationwide”, and listing “assets of $1.28 billion and debt of $1.29 billion (Kellogg). This has been a major hit to the publishing world, not only because Borders is one of the largest chain book stores but having that kind of debt means that the publishers are not getting paid for the books they sell.

               Facing this crisis, I think we can expect Borders to push more into the online market by concentrating on increasing the advertising of their online book store, especially the eBook section of the website. This will mean they will have to come up with new ways to reach their audience. They will have to increase the amount of books they offer; currently if you go to and view their printed book selection you find they offer 22,902,167 books. Do the same at Borders and you can see they offer 2,009,564 printed books. That is 2 books for every 23 offered though Go to the eBook sections of the websites and you come up with 3 eBooks for every 8 eBooks offered though I think it is fair to say that we can expect a lot of changes to Borders online store if they want to increase their overall sales and break into a market dominated by

               The best thing about eBooks is the cost. As an eBook reader and a Kindle owner, I am paying around an average of 40% to 50% less to purchase an eBook (I also don’t have to get rid of books because they are cluttering up my house). There are also many classic books that are offered for free because they are public domain. Retailers are able to offer these free books because volunteers transcribe the books into eBook versions. If one wanted a printed copy of Treasure Island, one would have to pay for the production costs; if Treasure Island was purchased though the Kindle, it would be free. The real matter at hand though is not that it saves the consumer money but that it saves the publisher money. That is why the eBook format is a dream for publishers. A typical hardcover book in store can cost a consumer $25 but costs $2.50 to print whereas an eBook costs anywhere from $0.99 to $14.99 with $12.99 the typical cost for a new release book but with no printing costs. Take out cost for printing, author royalties and the retailers cut you find that a hardcover will net “the publisher $5.80 (or 23.2% of the cover price)”, and “an e-book $6.82 (52.5%)” (Derrico, 2010). The lowered cost for purchase and the higher percent in net sales for the publisher will create a win-win situation for the publisher and the consumer.

               Also benefiting from the emergence of eBooks into popular culture is the author. The cheaper price on eBooks (combined with the ease that a consumer can purchase them), will drive people to purchase more books. Leaving the author with higher sales compared to having sold the book at the $25 price. There is also the unpublished author to consider. The unpublished author has for years had no outlets for their work. If they published their own books, the cost of printing and trying to sell is just as high, if not higher, then the publishers. A self-published author would have to print a lot of books, paying thousands of dollars just to have the books sit around while they try to reach their audience. The beauty of eBooks is that it costs nothing to produce. An author would just have to type up their novel, convert it using many free programs that can be found on the internet and submit it to for sale. By eliminating the major publisher the author can receive their full royalties, for example if you sell your eBook through, “you’ll earn 70% royalties on your eBook sales, as opposed to 17.5% on your eBooks sales under contracts with traditional publishers” (Kemp). While the author will lose out on the advertising that major publishers utilize, they will not have to stress that they can’t get published and doing it themselves would be better than not at all.

               Eventually, we may see eBook readers as a social norm in every home, kind of in the same way the television is. I am certain that most casual reading done in the future will be exclusive to eBook readers. On the other hand, I believe we will find textbooks for school or work will still continue to be on printed books. Will printed books ever go away? I think the answer is no. They are too much of a staple to human life to fully get rid of them. EBook production will continue to be a must for publishers. currently has over 840 thousand eBooks offered in their Kindle store; that’s 4 for every 115 printed books. There may be a day when 8 eBooks for every 10 printed is the standard; or possibly even 1 for 1. There is one thing that is definite, while there will be hard times for retailers and publishers not following new trends, the sale of eBooks will continue to revolutionize the way we read. Through the sale of eBooks the publishing world will grow stronger. The increase in sales will push for better technology and the surge in self-published authors will create a fair and competitive market for aspiring writers. The eBook revolution will continue and the decrease in sales from printed books will keep in balance with the sale of eBooks due to the decrease in production costs.  Unlike the television, this revolution will not be televised; it will be downloaded directly to the reading device of our choice.

Works Cited

@Paulskemp. Web log post. 21 Jan. 2011. Web. 17 Feb. 2011.!/Paulskemp/status/28481513460858880

Derrico, David. David Derrico: Always Write Blog. 29 September 2010. 17 February 2011 <>.

—. David Derrico: Always Write Blog. 29 September 2010. 17 2 2011 <>.

Kellogg, Carolyn. Jacket Copy: BOOKS, AUTHORS AND ALL THINGS BOOKISH. 16 February 2011. 16 February 2011 <>.

Kemp, Paul S. Paul S. Kemp: Blog. 4 1 2011. 17 January 2011 <>.

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