It's not just for those in the business of publishing, ordinary readers too can gain immensely from e-books

A certain Mr. Gutenberg may be turning in his grave because of it. Many conventional book lovers would rather be caught dead than use this devil. The publishing industry is biting its nails not knowing what shape this semi-explored genie will take. But one thing is for sure — e-book readers are here to stay. Rather — even at the cost of making preposterous predictions — let me say that e-book readers are here to rule.

I'll tell you why. The biggest challenge in the book business anywhere in the world is distribution. Whether an author rolls out a bestseller or not, he/she will always have the complaint against the publisher that not enough copies of his/her book have been made available at the x or y bookstores. Suppose we look at the scenario where people only read e-books, a book would never go out of stock. It can be downloaded to a hand-held gadget within seconds in any part of the world. Technology has the power to be a great leveller here and can rid the publishing industry of distribution hiccups, arguably one of the biggest headaches it suffers from.

Affordable pricing

Now, it's not just about people associated with publishing, book lovers too can gain immensely from this technological revolution.

Almost half of a book's cover price is what could be termed as ‘middlemen's margin'. Add to that the cost of production of the book, warehousing, transportation, wastage in the form of damaged copies and the cost of managing these operations. If you shift to e-books, the price, say of a book that costs Rs.100, can come down to Rs.30! What more could a book lover ask for — being saved from the disappointment of not finding the book he/she wants to read in the neighbourhood book shop and actually getting it at the click of a button from the convenience of her study at an absolutely affordable price. Add to this, the contribution e-books would make to our environment. According to statistics, more than 40 per cent of logged trees are used in making paper. Couple this with the air, water and sound pollution caused by the paper mills, the printing press, the vehicles used for transporting raw materials. Also, materials like inks, chemicals, rubber rollers and plastic get used regularly. The resultant collateral damage to the environment is colossal. A simple e-book reader can save our earth from all this, and it works well with coffee.

SHOBIT ARYA

(The author is the publisher of Wisdom Tree, the first Indian publishing organisation to sell its books through Amazon Kindle.)

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