Friday, 14 September 2012

Why publish digital books?

I talked with an interviewer for the NZ Listener a couple of days ago, who's putting together an article about digital publishing. What was it that made me stride out into the unknown and take on something whose outcomes were so uncertain? she asked,

I felt myself firing up as I do when I consider Rosa Mira Books's raison d'être: I am passionate about seeing exceptional writing out into the world, and without needing a huge budget or wasting resources, digital publishing seems to be the best means at present of doing this. With established publishers currently hedging their bets, shortening their lists, and wanting to be sure that every book they publish is a commercial success, some beautiful works of writing are considered too risky to take on. It might be that the author is new or as yet unknown; that the work appeals more to a particular than to a general audience; that the story requires readers to bring their full attention and intelligence to the reading. Or that the form of the work is new. None of these is a compelling reason for strong writing to go unpublished.

I'm also passionate about making as fine a job as possible of the editing, design and presentation of each ebook, and helping it find its way to its readers.

It's apricot violet time here in New Zealand.

There are challenges, of course. Here in NZ we've been slow on the uptake with reading devices. Hard copy is still the preferred reading medium for most. Amazon and the big ebook sellers are often seen by ebook buyers as the only source of ebooks; it's a long, slow job directing buyers straight to Rosa Mira Books, where the books are available formatted for every kind of reading device.

None of us knows what's going to happen to books or the publishing industry over the next few years, or even months. Obstacles and opportunities abound, for publishers and independent authors. I wonder if digital will become the proving ground for paper books. If a digital book is bought, read and loved in sufficient numbers, it might be deemed worthwhile making of it a beautifully designed and bound hard-copy edition. The book will be the longed-for artefect that appears once the work is known and applauded in its digital form.

Speculation. Meanwhile, digital publishing grows both simpler and more sophisticated. It's easier than ever to convert a document to ebook format (or to find someone to do it for a reasonable price), while on the other hand, apps are being made that can make a simple story into a multi-media experience. Still, what matters most to me is that the writing around which this activity centres is all it can be. For now, Rosa Mira Books is keeping it simple, producing well edited, well designed, robust and intelligent work with heart.


John B said...

Kia kaha rā Penelope. Keep up the good work!

Penelope said...

Thanks, John, one foot in front of the other.

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