I personally think we're a long way from an e-book only world, but with news of the kindle, Sony reader, and writers like Joe Konrath hyping their kindle adventures, I'd like to know how people would envision this world.

Clearly physical bookstores would no longer exist.

Would there be a need for publishers? If all books were equally placed within e-book stores, what role would publishers play other than simply vetting or putting their stamp of approval on books?

Do people think an e-book only world would be a good thing or bad thing for writers? For readers?

My own take, it would be a disaster for most writers. The e-book stores would be a dumping ground for the 100s of thousands of unpublished books that currently end up in places like iUniverse. With 100s of thousands of books flooding the kindle store and other e-book stores, mostly only books from established bestsellers would be bought, much more so than even today, with the midlist dead. Now independent bookstores handsell and recommend books from lesser known writers that they've discovered, and this gives midlist writers a chance to break out, but how would that happen if these bookstores didn't exist? And how would reviewers pick books to review if publishers no longer existed?? I think reviewers would have no choice but to stick with the recognized names.

Far from the paradise that writers like Joe Konrath are currently paint this, I think if this future did come about it would kill the careers of writers like Joe, myself and anyone else who hadn't already made it to the upper echelon.

Like to hear what other people think.

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Well, I'm a bit like you. I'm suspicious. The more competition, the less likely you are to become known. I'm really only interested in making a decent living from my work and retain the respect of fellow writers and avid readers. At the moment, I have to rely on reviews to send people to the store and to Amazon. My attitude towards bookstores is ambivalent. Yes, some of them have hand-sold the books, reviewed them in their store gazette, and discussed them in their mystery clubs. But most of them are more likely to order and ship back within a month. This shipping back early is enormously damaging to an author. At that point, I have only Amazon left to rely on, and my publisher is peeved.
It's not a competition thing as that in a world without publishers and where 100s of thousands of books are dumped into an e store, the only books that have a chance of standing out are those from highly recognizable writers. When a publisher like Serpent's Tail publishes a book today there's a certain expectation of the book from bookstores, reviewers, and some readers. Without publishers existing to vet these books then all books will basically disappear into this massive sea of e-books, with readers really having no choice but to only buy the writers who've already been established.

I don't see this happening for a very long time (if ever), but I do think minimally e-books will in the very near future put more pressure on physical bookstores, which is not a good thing.
For the past couple years pretty much every new writer I've discovered has been through the internet - usually blogs or even right here on Crimespace. I see blogs as the handselling indie store - except they don't get paid, which is too bad. If there was a way Peter Rozovsky at Detectives Beyond Borders or Sarah Weinman or Declan Burke or Gerrard Brennan could get a few bucks for all the books they've recommended that I've bought, that would be great.

I think most of what you're worred about is alreeady happening and it's okay. There will still be a mid-list and I'll be on it for years to come.
John, you're the exception. RARA AVIS, which is one of the most interesting and insightful crime fiction discussion groups around has 680 members, DorothyL has maybe 3000, with probably 2/3s of those authors. The number of readers who buy books based on blog recommendations is unfortunately infinitesimally small compared to the number of people buying books because they're prominently displayed in big box stores or chain stores or being recommended by indies. I think you're making a mistake in believing this tiny community you're part of is representative of something much larger. Maybe that will change in time.
Yes, I think it will change in time. I think it's already much larger than you do.

Beyond the specialty websites there are millions more. I would imagine that almost everyone under the age of 25 get all their entertainment recommendations online - MySpace, FaceBook, blogs, whatever. It's how they connect with their friends. We're still talking word of mouth through friends, but now those friends can be miles apart.

How can we be worried about illegal downloads and also worry that no one finds out about books online? If the price is right and it's convenient enough people will buy books online. That we can learn from the music business.

Now, if you're worried that big publishers won't be able to buy bestsellers by advertising enough, and paying for placement in bookstores that probably won't change, either. Publishers wil be able to pay for better placement online just like they do in bookstores.

Of course, I can't imagine selling any fewer books online than I do now in bookstores ;)
The worries that I expressed were actually the exact opposite--that in an e-book only world that the sea of books out there will be too large for readers to find anyone other than already established authors (and I guess celebrities).
Well, any word of mouth is great. To tell the truth, though, I'm not here to sell my books but to talk to friends and maybe learn something about the business.
(Note, this belongs with an earlier statement by John, re rewards for blog owners and reviewers.) If you pay reviewers, the process becomes tainted and worthless.
The process becomes tainted if there's a claim to objectivity. If it's just bloggers recommending books they like - which is what many blogs are - then I think it would be okay.

I've found a few authors through blogs. When I finish reading the blog I go to Amazon and order the book. If I could just order it from the blog and the blogger got a few cents, it wouldn't feel tainted to me.
But would you believe someone's recommendation if you knew this person will get paid when you buy the book?
I doubt that we will ever see the demise of the printed book, although we may see some of the bigger pubs opt out of the market when sales begin to decline and portable electronic readers become commonplace. I think it is the small to medium publisher of targeted books that will take up the slack. Places like 5-Star, Poisoned Pen, and Serpent's Tail will take up the slack.

Your thought that e-books will merely get a stamp of approval by the e-publisher makes sense. It may be that that stamp of approval is all we have to know that a book is all right, although we will need some hint as to what it is about. Too often, the screaming blurb on the e-book, and even what it is purported to be about is in question.
Jack here's my fear--bookstores are struggling as it is. It's possible that if e-books erode just a small percentage of business for these bookstores, that that alone could be the tipping to hasten their demise and speed us into an e-book only world.

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