The Future of Publishing: e-Books vs. p-Books

by Jude Urbanski

What do Nostradamus Ingermanson and Doctor Seuss Have in Common?

Nothing. Except author Randy Ingermanson is making five-year predictions on the future of publishing and from some authors, we hear words resonant of Doctor Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham—“I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not like them Sam-I-am.”

Randy’s Advanced Fiction Writing newsletter is a favorite of mine and in his July 6, 2010 issue he challenges us to be prepared rather than afraid of the future of publishing. He says he may be right, he may be wrong, but he knows change is certain.

His nine predictions are:

  1. E-books (electronic books) will surpass p-books (printed on paper books).
  2. E-books will become the “Minor Leagues.”
  3. Beginning authors will e-publish first.
  4. Mid-list authors may do better.
  5. Bestselling authors will profit most.
  6. Publishers will no longer accept returns.
  7. Agents will stop reading slush.
  8. Publishers will become more profitable.
  9. Some will do better; some will do worse.

Specific information is available at his site The article is long and not easily condensed.

 He says e-books are much more efficient to produce with their biggest obstacle presently being the e-book reader. With everyone wanting part of the profit, even this drawback is lessening as e-readers are made more available and user friendly. He refers us to Joe Konrath’s blog for further reasons why e-books will surpass p-books.

New authors will get their training, so to speak, in the electronic format, making it the “Minor League” of publishing as opposed to the printed publishing world being the “Major Leagues”. Once successful in the e-world, new authors are more apt to catch the eye of agents and publishers because then the guess work and risk of marketing are tempered. The role of gatekeepers who try to guess what the market will buy won’t be needed. A little scary since these are agents and publishers.

The concern of awful e-books flooding the market will be handled by the market itself, as it is now, Ingermanson says. The market is smart and always finds the good books. No news here. We have awful printed books already.

One monumental prediction is, within five years, the overwhelming majority of all first novels will be electronic. Mid-listers will or will not get on board with e-books, but Randy suggests it would be wise.

Ouch—I’m still navigating my first fiction p-book!

Publishers may finally get to publish only winners, but this prediction is less clear in Ingermanson’s magic globe. They may publish their bestselling authors in e-format or these authors may choose to do it themselves. Likewise, the issue of publishers continuing to accept returns remains cloudy in the globe also.

For those unable to foresee life without a printed book to hold in their hands, don’t despair. A robust segment of the market still wants p-books. Publishers may go p-book and e-book simultaneously or go printed version only after the book is proven in e-format.

I found Randy’s predictions of the future changes in publishing absorbing, yet since I’ve been so focused on printed publishing, I’m having to work on a new mind set. Sacred cows like agent, publishers accepting returns, a printed book to read in bed just before going off to sleep are hard to release.

The future of publishing can’t be predicted with perfect clarity, but I plan to give serious consideration to Randy’s predictions. What are your predictions for a beautiful life in the publishing world five years from now?

PS-Since this article, I have received a contract from Desert Breeze Publishing for a November 2011 release of my first novel! Randy’s predictions rang true with me.

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