The Future Of Books


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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
In the What’s Happening sidebar, Agent Pete mentioned the problem of launching a new book in the current crisis.

Authors new and established are facing setbacks, with bookshops closed. Some may not reopen.

They Were Meant to Be the Season’s Big Books. Then the Virus Struck.

Well-known writers will weather the storm, but imagine how those with a debut novel must be feeling.

Publishers and book stores are fighting back with online sales, but how long that will last for anything but eBooks is debatable. Running a book warehouse or book shop needs staff and how much is providing reading matter an essential service?

Amazon Is Putting Book Deliveries Into the Slow Lane Thanks to the Coronavirus

A quick browse of Twitter and Facebook reveals that many authors are giving their eBooks away for free. I just searched ‘free ebooks’ on Twitter and found 90 tweets.

Such offers might help raise a writer’s profile, attracting readers who’ll stay loyal to them. But, here’s the thing – how many readers will be prepared to become paying customers, once the crisis has subsided and it’s business as usual?

How often do you pay for a book, be it digital or a hard copy? We’re all writers, so are more likely to do so. I’ve bought a dozen titles this year, including advice books on writing by P. D. James, Jane Friedman and Ursula K. Le Guin. But, many people expect things for free, including books.

There are contradictory stories about book sales in the time of coronavirus. Some reports say they’re in decline, while others claim there’s been a surge.

Book sales fall as impact of coronavirus increases

Book lovers snap up stories for self isolation

I note from social media postings that some self-isolating souls are re-reading childhood favourites, asking for recommendations in various genres, including plague books, while others are using their quarantine as an opportunity to finally tackle very, very long books, such as the 4,215 pages of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.


Reading books has become a social activity, at least online, with new books clubs appearing on the internet. This is a good thing, as word of mouth promotion can’t be bought.


Overall, I’m optimistic, as the coronavirus will allow me to relaunch my series of crime novels. I self-published the first four Cornish Detective titles last Christmas, intending to promote them this spring, but I’ve been beset with technical issues that have prevented me blowing my own trumpet.

How do you feel?

What does this bode for the future of publishing?

Did you start a story set in 2020, that now needs to be rewritten to include the virus?

Will writers be seen as saviours or as a temporary distraction?

The question: would I read a free book and then move on to paying for another by that author (roughly translated)?

So many times, so many, many times when I've paid good money for a book and been disappointed means I will not go on to read something by that author. Often, the first time I'm disappointed, I won't read anything by that author ever again.
However, if there's a spark of a good story, even if it's a bit messy with grammar or spelling (not too many, mind), or a few things get missed in the muss, I'll go on to at least read the preview for another work of theirs.
If I loved the story, I'm very happy to give them another go and buy a book.
The warning in this, though, is that as soon as I see the shoddiness creeping in, I close the door and don't come back.
Ask me why? It's a waste of my time. Even Dean Koontz has lost me as a reader, based on the trash he put out as novellas for KU. Yes, I paid for it based on what I've previously read of his works. I will never again buy one of those books, and his other books are now way too expensive for me.

Don't disappoint the reader, and don't offer the first book you ever wrote as the free enticement, especially if you know it isn't all that good. Give them your best and they may forgive the occasional disappointments when they go back for more.

That's my opinion, btw, and could be at odds with every other human on the planet. That's alright by me.
I find my reading experience has been a lifelong journey. Where I have been in that journey depends on whether I have bought the next book in a series (and tbh, not many make the cut for me, so the first book must be super strong). If I could say there's one constant, it's that a good story and entertaining characters attract me (easier said than done unless you're a natural). But I agree with @CageSage - my experience is similar.
Stories will always be in demand but it's how they are told that changes and I think physical books will take third place behind internet publishing and movies. Despite our so called progress and increased wealth people have less time to themselves so speed is of the essence. Instead of ploughing through 400 pages of fantasy why not download the movie. Plenty of them up there and many for free. There will always be hard copy books but they will be a niche market in the future as the masses go for convenience. Picture books excepted, kids like touchy feely. Authors too may well graduate to places like Amazon as they can get their books out there and earn a higher percentage of the sales price + not have to wait 2 years for the publishing date to arrive.
The current situation will blow over eventually and I don't think it will have a lasting effect on book sales but for some years there will be less money around for non-essentials
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I like books. I like to rest my eyes away from screens and read black ink on paper. I like looking at my book shelves (that's possibly weird but true). I like the feel of a book in my hands (possibly also weird).
I agree that I have to enjoy the first book I read by an author to buy another. If I loved a book and buy another and don't like it, I'd still probably give the author the benefit of the doubt and buy a third (though that's never happened so far).
I hope printed books continue to be produced and independent bookshops manage to survive the virus.
I put the first three books of my Dragon Slayer series on sale (free everywhere but Amazon, which will only allow me to go as low as $0.99) in part to do my part to entertain kids during lockdown, and in part because the fourth book in the series was released today. I've seen an uptick, not just in free downloads, but also in sales of the physical books. Go figure.
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