'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Guest Post: E Met Book with Nick Bland

KBR is thrilled to welcome Nick Bland, beloved Australian author/illustrator of children’s books with this eye-opening guest post. Here he talks about the logistics behind his foray into e-books.

Publishers used to love the letter ‘e’. The most-used letter in written English, it always sat innocuously at fifth place in the alphabet and second to ‘A’ among vowels. ‘E’ spent most of its life in publishing coming in at the back end of words. It made the word ‘olde’ somehow seem older than ‘old’.

In recent years, ‘e’ has been roaming the world brandishing a hyphen and in some cases laying claim to word status. ‘A’ envy, perhaps.

Not since we found it scrawled in red at the top of a bad philosophy essay has the letter ‘e’ shifted our paradigm so far in one hit because now, it has attached itself to the front of one of our favourite words. The e-book is upon us. In some cases, the ‘e’ has already swallowed the hyphen. What will it do to the rest of the book?

What exactly is this ‘e-book’ and what does it mean to you?

If you are the person I met at a gathering last week, the e-book is a wolf, sent to devour your memories and deprive the world of the power of love, contained, she maintained, in the dog-eared pages of paper books.

If you are an established picture-book author/illustrator, you are about to have a lot more choices and possibly a new income stream. There will be temptations to leave the publisher and the grip of rigorous editing in pursuit of the moving image and endless possibility but good sense will prevail when everyone remembers why we had editors in the first place.

If you are trying to break into book illustration or writing of any kind, you are going to find harder for a while. Value is still easily obtainable from the proven sellers. However, availability of the brightest stars will become increasingly tight as they find their work more in demand.

If you are a publisher of picture-books you will survive on the cream and stretch out your best-sellers as far as you can with merchandising and reprints, just as you’ve always done. Only now, you will have a dynamic travelling advertisement for your book in the form of an app.

Your customers will buy an e-book to go with their paper book. Better still, they will enjoy the e-book their friend showed them on their phone and go straight down to the bookshop and buy it in hard copy. (Actually, they’d be statistically more likely to buy it from the bookseller named after the South American river but they would still be buying the book twice and passing on their approval to at least 6 friends.)

You will have the ability to translate your books into multiple languages without printing a single copy, broadening your market substantially.

If you are a publisher of written or illustrated non-fiction and you are still in business, you really have very little choice but to go ‘e’. Even the library will digitise all of its information books before long. The company that has a piece of fruit as a logo has been focused on this end for years.

If you are a parent you are either decrying the death of the bedtime story or loving the concept of the anytime story. Either way, your darling digital native can navigate your device before he or she can talk, so you get to have dessert when you go out for dinner and drive a car without conniptions.

If you are a publisher of picture-less fiction you are trying to work out how much people will pay for what is essentially typesetting.

If you are a librarian you are torn between the benefits of saving space and the possibility of your own impending oblivion.

The Wheelbarrow Team
If you are a commissioning editor in a publishing house you are wishing the world’s biggest online book retailer hadn’t just told the world than anyone can write a book…or you are terrified that the secret is out.

If you are a kid who sits in an overcrowded classroom all day fumbling through the darkness that is the written word, unable to make sense of it all, you might just have found the light switch.

If you are a language teacher your job just got a whole lot easier.

If you are a book retailer you either:

a) Saw the e-revolution coming, embraced it and diversified, building on your knowledge of backlist and rallying the support of your local community.

b) Saw the e-revolution coming but succumbed to the fiscal pressures and low margins in books before you could form a strategy.

c) Spent the past 15 years trying to kill off all opposition, succeeding largely but failing to notice that your staff still thought they were working in a supermarket and you ultimately died at the bottom of a pile of Bryce Courtenay hard-covers .

d) Only sell books online and have become the world’s biggest retailer of anything.

If you are a blogger, it means thousands more words.

And if you love reading, you’re going to have a ball.


Nick Bland is not only an author/illustrator, he is also the co-founder of Wheelbarrow, a company dedicated to turning existing picture books into interactive e-books. See his e-book version of The Very Cranky Bear right here.

The Very Cranky Bear has been chosen for this year's National Simultaneous Story Time, run by ALIA in conjunction with The National Year of Reading.