Saturday, June 4, 2016

Basics of E-Books

There is no question that electronic publishing—e-pub or ePub—has changed the publishing industry. Depending which area of publishing is being discussed, e-pub has had an entirely transformative effect, only a slight impact, or somewhere in-between. For example, the newspaper industry has been transformed so drastically that “paper” is almost secondary. On the other hand, the impact of e-pub on educational publishing has been, to this point, minimal. Setting all of that aside, what exactly is e-pub?

E-pub in its broadest sense is, quite simply, publishing information in electronic (or digital) format. The most basic form of e-pub is a simple word-processing document that is distributed as a file, whether posted on the Internet for reading or download, e-mailed, or made available for sale. A web page itself is a form of e-pub in this broadest sense of the term.

However, in the publishing industry, there is a generally accepted format for e-pub that is based on compatibility with e-book readers. Doling out PDFs and DOCs to the end uses is not really e-pub by industry standards. The publishing industry considers e-pub as an electronic publication that adheres to the EPUB format. This is an industry standard published by the International Digital Publishing Forum. The EPUB format consists of a markup language similar to that used for web pages, and, in fact, is partially derived from XHTML and CSS among other languages. Amazon’s MOBI format is a derivative of the EPUB format.

The sales of e-books climbed dramatically in the first part of the 21st century. However, sales have leveled off. Industry wide, e-books sales generally account for between 20 and 30 percent of total sales. Soft cover books generally account for another 20 to 30 percent, and hardcover accounts for the remainder. For the most part, the increase in e-book sales has not been at the expense of sales of soft and hardcover formats. In other words, e-book sales have increased the total sales for the industry.

So, where does the industry go from here? In terms of sales, it seems as if the industry has reached a stasis; as a whole, that is. In the short term, it seems likely that print books, soft and hardcover combined, will continue to dominate the overall market, but e-books can represent a significant source of revenue for publishers and authors. Certain segments of the industry will see higher e-book sales, but other segments will see lower e-book sales, perhaps virtually none. Coffee table books, for example, will likely be sold almost entirely in print. On the other hand, Amazon pushes e-book sales with relentless energy. As a result, Amazon sees a significantly higher percentage of book sales in e-book format than the rest of the industry. There are so many different segments of the publishing industry, painting with a wide brush to describe the state of the industry is imperfect at best. E-books are here to stay; but, so are print books.

Tin Whiskers Publisher is a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). IBPA’s mission is “to lead and serve the independent publishing community by providing advocacy, education, and tools for success.” IBPA is a not-for-profit membership organization serving and leading the independent publishing community. Founded in 1983, it is the largest publishing trade organization in the United States. IBPA members pledge to uphold the organization’s code of ethics.

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