Earth Day is a good time to reflect on how we can all do more to help the environment. For self-published authors, that might mean taking a closer look at your options for publishing your manuscript. Print-On-Demand (POD) publishing and e-book publishing are both great alternatives to traditional offset printing.
POD publishing allows authors to print only the books they need, at any time they need them. Not only is this incredibly convenient, it is a great way to reduce the amount of wasted paper an author might accumulate with unused books. Some publishing companies have also taken steps to be environmentally friendly self-publishers by using only recycled paper and paper sourced from Sustainable Reforestation Programs.
E-books’ digital formats are a great way to save paper and trees. Consider all the paper sitting on your bookshelf right now—e-books eliminate the necessity for all of that. And e-books are starting to become desirable for reasons beyond just the fact that they help the environment:
First of all, it is easier than ever to access an e-book. Technology such as Amazon’s Kindle 2 and Sony’s Reader make reading an e-book just as portable as reading a printed book. These e-book readers can store dozens of books, and the Kindle 2 can actually read an e-book aloud to you.
E-books also offer readers advantages over printed books, as long as e-book producers put the effort into these endeavors. E-books are capable of having features like a clickable index that will take you right to the page number you are looking for. Linking books together that reference one another is another helpful attribute that could be added to e-books. Some industry leaders even think it is possible that e-books will be able to be sold chapter by chapter in the future, just like iTunes sells songs individually. Allowing readers to only pay for the information they need might be a great benefit of e-books.
Although e-books appear to be the logical progression of books in our digitized age, a few obstacles prevent e-books from catching on as quickly as other forms of digital media. Compare the speed of the e-book transition to the iTunes phenomenon or the DVD revolution. iTunes and DVDs caught on so quickly because listening to a digital song or watching a DVD are the same experiences digitally as they are on tape. But reading a book digitally is not the same experience as reading a printed book. We love the feel of a book in our hands, the pages on our fingertips, and being able to mark up pages with our own notes and comments. We’re going to have to ease into the transition of reading a book on a screen.
To make that transition easier, e-book reader devices are going to have to be tweaked a little more. As Joshua Topolsky writes on engadget.com, there are improvements in Amazon’s Kindle 2 that make it easier to use than it’s predecessor, but the changes might not be enough for the general population to give up their paperbacks.
And the improvements don’t stop with the Kindle 2. Japanese company Fujitsu just launched the first color e-book reader, which should be a big draw for people once hesitant to convert to digital books because of their gray-scale only text and images. However, Fujitsu’s reader, “The FLEPia,” is around $12,000, so it’s probably not a feasible option for most of the population.
As the experience of reading an e-book becomes more realistic and affordable, the popularity of the e-book will continue to grow; but e-books are not yet the most common book format for readers. What does this mean for environmentally concerned self-publishing authors? It means that for now, you should keep taking advantage of Print-On-Demand services that allow you to use only the amount of paper you need. Also, make sure your publishing company uses only recycled paper and paper from Sustainable Reforestation Programs. For some self-published authors, pioneering the e-book territory might be an exciting challenge. Ask your publishing company to submit your book content to Amazon for the creation of a Kindle version of the book.
If you are interested in the past, present, and future of e-books, I suggest you check out this article by e-book visionary John Siracusa. Another great blog on the state of the Kindle is the Kindleville blog produced by publishing veteran Joe Wikert.
Happy Earth Day! Celebrate by doing something good for the environment.