RT BOOKLovers Convention 2011: Doing It Digitally

With digital e-readers all the rage, it is clear that we've entered a new era in alternative publishing. On last week's panel "The Digital Age: A Mainstream Perspective" agents and publishers shared insiders' looks about the impact that e-books are having on the traditional methods of publishing, and how the e-revolution will affect authors and readers. Check out what was said in this very special guest blog from RT's Stacey Agdern.

Change. How to handle change. So many panels on digital books focus on that very particular idea. And they should. Because change is afoot, and those who don’t pay attention will be left behind. However, what was pointed out on the panel "Digital Age: A Mainstream Perspective” is that during the 2010 holiday season, the rise of e-books is no longer in the future — it is here. What publishers were shown in December and January is that digital books have officially become mainstream. 

But what does this mean for people in the industry? Agent Ethan Ellenberg raised questions about the need to duplicate the print experience on an e-level. Is it possible (or even beneficial) to take the experience of browsing a bookstore shelf to "turning the pages" of an e-reader? 

Avon's Erica Tsang added a point about the fundamental difference between e-book and print purchasing. She said, "Readers who buy e-books know what they want.” But while it was once easy for readers to find what they were looking for in well organized brick-and-mortar stores, Ellenberg pointed out how challenging it is to stand out in a marketplace that has exploded with titles. “We want readers to find us wherever we are,” Ellenberg said.

Dianne Moggy from Harlequin highlighted the importance of author branding. Her advice is the stronger/better an author brand, the easier it is to stand out amidst the many titles available. Next up was Julie Cummings, who also discussed marketing difficulties and how social networking and websites can combat these problems. Highlighting ARe Café, a brand new extension of AllRomanceEbooks, Cummings extolled the virtues of allowing readers to share recommendations and reviews, get links to book blogs and industry information in one place.

Of course, when a panel is talking about mainstream e-publishing, self-publishing cannot be left out of that discussion. Angela James of Carina Press reminded everybody that self-publishing is not new, not for everybody; and that people should self-publish only if they want to deal with "the business of publishing." An author who is self-publishing needs support; editors, cover artists and a great deal more than simply the ability to write a book.

And so in the end, while everyone can agree that the changes prompted by the e-revolution have officially begun, there are still a lot of question marks when it comes to answering what this will mean for publishers, authors and readers in the future. 

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For an audio version of this panel check out www.ConferenceRecording.com. And for more of the convention's e-book industry coverage check back all week long and visit our Everything E-Books section on the RT website.