Joe Lansdale On The E-Book Revolution And The Future Of Books [Exclusive Q&A]By: Chris Crum - February 2, 2012
Last week, we reported that author (and “Champion Mojo Storyteller”) Joe Lansdale was considering e-book as the exclusive format for his next “Hap and Leonard” book. He indicated as much in a Facebook update, but in a later update he said after talking with a publisher, there would be print editions after all.
Since then, we conducted a Q&A with Lansdale about the e-reading trend, and what it means to authors.
Lansdale says he’s never done anything directly to e-book in the past, though much of his back list has moved to e-book.
He says he’s not sure of the advantages of going e-book only, but plans to try it and see.
“I think that some people are reading only e-books, and if you want to be discovered by new readers, and stay in the game, e-books have to be a serious consideration,” Lansdale tells WebProNews. “I prefer hard copies, and hope everything of mine will eventually be contained that way, but I do want to experiment and see if there’s a different market out there.”
“I’ve stayed in the game by not only trying to write as well as possible, but trying to keep up with the changes in the industry,” he continues. “The pulps aren’t coming back, and soon paperbacks will be gone, and they won’t, in any way that matters, come back either.”
“At least not the lower level paperbacks,” he adds. “I think the larger style paperback, like VINTAGE books uses will be around for awhile.”
Given his lack of experience in going e-book only, he says he can’t speak to how well they help authors reach new audiences. “But it looks to me that they can be an aid, and for some writers, a career,” he says. “Some writers seem to speak to that medium more than others. I’m not sure why that is. It’s like some writers did well in hardback, not paper, or in limited editions, and some it was just the opposite. It’s like certain actors who can command great attention on TV, but get lost in film.”
When asked if he reads e-books, Lansdale tells us he’s read three (he uses a Nook rather than a Kindle).
“I don’t prefer it, but I’m sure I’ll read others in time,” he says of e-books. “My wife has read a few e-books. It seems nice for trips. I think the advantage to these kind of devices is to the casual reader who doesn’t keep books, or who doesn’t have room to store books.”
“I think books are going to be around,” he says. “Too many people like them, and there will be new readers who like them as well. But its slice of the market will become smaller. In some ways, I think more people are reading because of e-books, and that’s a good thing. These are people who don’t go to bookstores, but love to look through listings on their computer and load up without having to leave their house.”
People like to share good books with their friends. When asked about this thoughts on this in relation to the e-book format, he says, “The problem with sharing an e-book is that it may be too easy to copy. Where someone could loan a book around, this way they can really loan a book, cutting into a writer’s sales. This will change writing, how it’s done, and what writers get paid. Which for many isn’t that much to begin with. It has its negatives.”
In a recent Facebook update, Lansdale said, “I think there will always be real books, but they are going to be a smaller, and probably more collector type of market. Some publishers are even considering moving that way more and more, so this could be good for small presses, as far as real books go.”
When asked more about this, Lansdale tells WebProNews, “I just think the market will shrink, but it will become more valuable to small presses who will now have a market for those who want this kind of book, especially if the main houses limit their number of paper books.”
“I also think it’s obvious that small presses don’t have to make the large amounts of money big publishers do to survive,” he continues. “I think in fact this situation will cause their markets to grow. What led to the e-book isn’t just technology, its greed. Book companies didn’t just want to make a profit anymore, they wanted to make vast fortunes. They wanted fewer writers and more best sellers. They turned books from common entertainment to luxury entertainment.”
“The same has been done with movies and comics,” he says. “Too high a price for people to afford. This opened the door for cheaper books. I don’t think there has ever been enough readers to sustain the kinds of sales these companies needed, but what’s odd, is, as I said earlier, I think readership is growing because of accessibility. It’s like the paperback revolution which changed everything in the last century.”
So how long will it be until e-book reading is more common than print book reading?
“I have no idea how long it will be,” Lansdale admits. “Some of it is fad, and it will ebb and flow, and then it’ll find its balance. It is happening fast, though.”
Meanwhile, Lansdale appears to be embracing the e-book market more than ever, offering his previous writings in the format, including all of the “Hap and Leonard” books, which he said in a Facebook update today are available from Vintage Books, a division of Random House.
He also has several titles available in the Kindle Lending Library, which can be read for free by Amazon Prime members. One of them is The Nightrunners – my first experience with Lansdale’s writing, and the one that got me hooked on his work.
Visit Joe’s site here.