Lovers of all things printed, bound and published have a new literary hopeful hovering over their heads. But rather than the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, it’s the electronic reading device known as the eReader. Thankfully, while Johannes Gutenberg may be rolling his eyes from beyond the grave at the concept of digital tablets that display virtual volumes known as eBooks, the reality is that we’re potentially standing on the cusp of an industrial revolution. Better yet, even the field’s formerly staunchest holdouts – newspaper, book and magazine publishers – are finally waking up and embracing the technology’s potential in growing numbers.
Why the recent shift? Given what analysts say is the increasingly depressing reality of old-world print business models, today’s publishers and booksellers (who’d once adopted a largely adversarial stance) are increasingly approaching this digital development with an “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude. Mark Cull, publisher of Red Hen Press, admits that he’s gladly partnered with Amazon, giving the online mogul permission to digitize and reprint their books. Cull says that his company, a small but highly acclaimed literary outfit, is enjoying keeping up with the latest technological trends and advancements. “The entire printing world is leaning toward digitized publication with fascination,” said Cull. “We [at Red Hen Press] are actually very interested in the direction the publication of books is going.”
In contrast, Cull does admit there’s been a rogue protest or two over this new literary fad from some writers and readers. Case in point: The Women’s Poetry Listserv, more commonly referred to as WOMPO, had a couple blog posts and online forums trying to sway publishers’ from signing anything with Amazon. Cull says that the rebellion faded fast though, once they realized the slight effect it had on the publishing realm, since these technologies aren’t in a threatening position as they currently cover only one percent of the readership. Even though the option for a digitized version of a Red Hen Press book is available, Cull points out that most of their readers still prefer traditional books. “We are buying into this market, but we’re not worried about sales because we know our reader base,” he says, citing that sales have been on an upward growth path for the past few years.