Sunday, February 5, 2012

Does Digital Publishing Give Authors An Unfair Advantage?

An article on digital publishing appeared in the December 31, 2011 - January 1, 2012 edition of The Wall Street Journal. Journalist Nicholas Carr discussed the advantages and challenges that can come from being able to edit a book after it is published. You can read the entire article here.

Carr brought up how easy it would be to abuse this functionality: school boards exerting more influence over what students read, editing textbooks that don't fit in with local biases, and governments being able to tweak books to suit their political interests. I honestly hadn't thought of these issues, but I did start to wonder--does digital publishing give authors an unfair advantage over those who select traditional publishing?

Now, I'm sure one could argue the quality of traditionally published books is better. They might be right. Why is it, however, that a digitally published author should have the chance to correct errors or unclear passages, maybe even write a new ending for a book once it's available to the buying public? If a traditionally published author is willing to let his or her work stand as is, why shouldn't everyone? I remember an author once sending me a book to review. She mentioned in her email that she hoped I would realize this was her first book (she had released several other titles since that time, but this was the first in  a series that I had won in a giveaway), and she had grown as a writer in the years that followed. Imagine not having to say that. Imagine having the chance to alter your book after receiving a few less than positive reviews.

And it's not only the text that can be altered when you publish digitally. I've known more than one author who changed the cover art of the book after it was published--some made more than one change. It makes one wonder if in this digital world there are "Books That Are Never Done Being Written."

What do you think?


thewriterslife said...

You know, that was one aspect of digital publishing that I really liked - the ability to go in and change something that wasn't working. How clever is that? We both have a friend (you'll know who I'm talking about) who ended up changing her book cover because the second one really was better. Isnt' that just amazing that you can do that?

Unknown said...

I hear this more often and personally I don't see why it would be an issue. As to book cover changes, I've seen that a lot when books get re-issued. In the print world with a publisher, wouldn't they want a book to be better written to increase sales? Takes trial and error sometimes. Perhaps not necessarily completely changing an ending but adding/removing scenes from the story based on feedback or revising the cover or pictures to better suit the book AND time would be beneficial to an author if they can do it easily and I don't think it's wrong. The perks of the self-published, right?!