According to Wikipedia, “Google runs over one million servers in data centers around the world, and processes over one billion search requests and about twenty-four petabytes of user-generated data every day’” while Amazon is “America’s largest online retailer”. The publishing industry is undergoing a technological revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since the invention of movable type 500 years ago, and because I am a freelance writer and an author I have been drawn into business partnerships with both Google and Amazon as a result of this revolution.
Amazon acquired a print-on-demand publishing company a couple of years ago and went into the printing/publishing business, in a big way (BookSurge and CreateSpace as: On-Demand Publishing LLC, a subsidiary of Amazon.com). Amazon’s CreateSpace features a no fee do-it-yourself approach; and for authors who are not able to do it themselves, Amazon’s BookSurge’s offers authors the opportunity to have their books designed and edited for a reasonable fee. Being able to have my book printed, distributed, and sold by “America’s largest online retailer” at no cost to me, through CreateSpace, was an opportunity that I was able to take advantage of.
Google has had its Google Books for some time now, but only recently opened its (long awaited) Google ebookstore. The benefit, to the author, of partnering with both Google and Amazon is that this enables the author to have a book available in various ebook formats (with Google) as well as print and Kindle ebook format (with Amazon). The cost-savings of the ebook technology is passed on to the book-buying consumer: ebooks are a lot cheaper than print, they’re available immediately, and there are no shipping charges.
The thing about this is that all of this—the new digital POD/ebook availability thing—really is very new.
As I’ve said before, the invention of the printing press and movable type (during the early sixteenth century) created a technological leap forward in the communication of information and causing the greatest proliferation of ideas that the world had ever seen. Ideas and information could now be communicated–written, printed, and widely distributed—more quickly and efficiently and this gave writers the ability to influence many people’s thoughts concerning the relevant issues of the day. Such mass influence was impossible before the technological development of printing with movable type, and it was the technological development of printing itself which fueled the societal changes that later occurred (e.g., the Reformation, the Renaissance) due to the widespread proliferation of ideas via the new print media.
Until the technological innovation of the telegraph (during the late nineteenth century), printed materials (e.g., books, pamphlets, newspapers, illustrations, political cartoons) were the best means by which to communicate ideas and information. The telegraph was able to provide information instantaneous and it was the combination of the telegraph wire’s instantaneous capabilities along with the already well established and widely circulated print media (i.e., newspapers) which brought about a revolution in both how and when the news would be reported from that point on.
I can remember when the network television news programs still had the sound of the teletype in the background, and the theme music to go with it. The teletype was a machine that printed-out—continuously—the latest news coming from the wire services and it was the means through which the networks gathered the news. The wire services owed their very existence to the technological innovation of the telegraph and its wire, which is why they were called wire services. Wire services, such as the Associated Press (the AP), still exist, and remain their primary sources for news gathering. And the latest technological innovation in communications—the internet—has now become a primary source for news gathering too.
The digital era is a time of momentous changes in communications technologies, which is reshaping the communications industries. It’s amazing what can be done digitally today. I was able to write a book and make it available to anyone with internet access—in both print and digital formats. And it’s cost me nothing, except for the technological tools I used to do this with: my laptop computer and internet access (I used free Wi-Fi). In the not-so-distant past it cost an author thousands of dollars to self-publish, now it costs nothing. The publishing industry is changing rapidly due to this revolution in communications technology, and it is struggling to find its new self. For instance, having worked for both a large newspaper (the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) and a large paper company (International Paper) I have been expecting the crisis many newspapers are now facing: circulation and advertising is down, and the costs of printing the news on paper is very high . . . my local newspaper offers free mobile (iphone) related apps.
Two of my favorite publishing outlets are Scribd and the Internet Archive’s Community Books, which offer various ebook format editions of my book (including mobile) FREE. Scribd is, by far, my favorite publishing outlet . . . I get lots of reads daily on Scribd, and reads is what I, as a writer, am most interested in: readers.
It’s a communication and information revolution and I suppose it was inevitable that Google and Amazon (or whatever else they may have been called) would become two of the main channels of the new digital information/communication revolution . . . who knows?