The Digital Revolution

George Consagra, the COO of Scribd.com came to the Grotto for lunch today. If you don’t know what Scribd (pronouncd “Scribbed”) is, it started two years ago as a YouTube for documents, and twelve days ago transformed into an iTunes for documents as members became able to name their price material they uploaded. Documents range anywhere from a recipe or a book report to full-length nonfiction books and novels. Scribed takes 20 percent and you get the rest. They now have 68,000,000 (that’s million) users per month, the majority from the U.S., Europe, India and Brazil. (About one third are English speaking.) Two local authors, Pemble Scott and Joe Quirk, both opted to publish their latest novels on Scribd instead of going the standard publishing route. The downfall? You not only don’t get an advance (but what novelist does anyway?), you have to do ALL of your marketing on your own. And yet, authors are doing more and more of their own publicity these days anyway, and book tours are a dying beast. So what’s to stop a writer from publishing on Scribd? Prestige. There’s nothing like holding a copy of your published book in your hand (not that I would know) and handing it to Dad, who hasn’t yet learned to turn on a computer, and Scribd can’t make that happen. And yet, for self-published authors doing print-on-demand, it’s a way to get your work in print AND in front of 68 million potential readers. Scribed is just two years old, and it’s store less than two weeks old, but soon it plans to add reviews and a Facebook-style social network for writers that will allow quality documents to get more views. And if you’re determined to see your book in print, hurry up, because with the Kindle and other e-readers gaining in popularity and 86 percent of Japanese teenagers reading books on their PHONES, it won’t be long before bookstores (and not just the indies, all the them) go the way of CD stores – out of business. I came away from the meeting crossing my fingers that it’s not too late to get my book in print, but also making a mental note to put a Kindle at the top of my Christmas list. Because, like the iPhone (or any smart phone), we’re all going to have one sooner or later. May as well get with the program.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Digital Revolution

  1. Ani

    Nice post.
    It’s always risky to prognosticate, but I think we are still some time away from doing away with the printed book. There is no difference in the experience of listening to a CD vs. listening to an mp3 on an iPod. Sounds exactly the same. You cannot tell the difference.

    But reading a printed book and reading it on an e-Reader is still significantly different.

    I do think it will be an issue if your target demographic has abandoned reading printed books as a pastime (as you point out in your post about Japanese teenagers). Then your only choice will be to distribute your work electronically.

  2. It’s hard to know how long they will be around – there were always be SOME bookstores, the way there are still photo shops that develop film (a friend the other day said she had “gotten her photos developed” and I thought I’d heard wrong at first), but Stacey’s and Cody’s have already gone out of biz, B&N in downtown Berkeley shut down, and Borders may not last long either. Meanwhile, we all know that newspapers are rapidly dying. Things have changed a LOT in the past year, and people who love the Kindle say you can curl up with it anywhere you can curl up with a book. So we’ll see. I hope you’re right, though.

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