I’m happy to be part of the KnitGrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design blog tour. For my part in the tour, I decided to talk to author and designer Shannon Okey about ebooks. We had a very long and interesting discussion so I’ve broken into several blog posts. Here’s part 1. I hope you’ll be intrigued enough to come back tomorrow for more.
DD: Shannon, welcome to my blog! I’m thrilled that you’re offering your newest book, The KnitGrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design as an ebook for two reasons: First, I’m spending four months in Europe this year and I can’t carry any paper books with me, so I’ve only been buying and reading ebooks; and second, I am working on getting a store set up to sell a collection of ebooks and patterns this fall, so I’m hoping our interview will be more of a brainstorming session that will give us both some new ideas for producing and publicizing ebooks. So feel free to answer any of my questions with questions if you’d like, and let’s see what we can come up with! Here goes:
What made you decide to offer The KnitGrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design as an ebook? Did you have customers asking for it? Did you see a new direction in the market? Are you just experimenting?
SO: First and foremost, I completely sympathize with your traveling dilemma — when I lived abroad, it was exceedingly difficult to keep up with my usual reading volume. I hesitated to buy books, knowing I’d have to ship them all home later on! (I resorted to reading a lot of long, dense, classic lit instead — “Middlemarch,” anyone?).
I specifically wanted to offer my new book, and all the other books my publishing company Cooperative Press is publishing, as ebooks, because I not only see it as a new direction in the publishing market, but also as a playing-field-leveler for smaller publishers. I didn’t know what kind of reaction to expect, but I’ve definitely sold more ebooks than I thought I would so far, which is either grounds for celebration or confirmation bias, I’m not sure which…
DD: Do you have any other electronic publications available already, or is this your first publication being offered in a digital format? I’ve published free patterns and articles on my blog before, and I’ve written for other blogs, and I do have a handful of patterns for download on Ravelry. But although I read ebooks almost exclusively now, I’m really just getting my feet wet in this area as an author/publisher.
SO: Obviously I’ve published PDF-format patterns for some time now, and some of my other big-publisher books are already available on Kindle, but this is the first one I’ve published natively as an ebook right from the start. A few years ago, when I first got my Kindle (and nearly fell over with excitement at how great it is), I asked my agent to contact all the publishers I’d worked with to discuss getting my books onto Kindle. Frankly, I was a bit surprised by the ho-hum reaction from some of the publishers, since it seemed to make so much sense. But looking back on it now and watching how the ebook market has evolved, I’m not as shocked anymore — larger publishers are typically a lot more risk-averse than smaller ones. We’ve got the upper hand for once, Donna!
DD: Are you planning to use any DRM (Digital Rights Management) or copy protection on your ebooks? How do you feel about that in general? Personally, I hate it and will not buy an electronic media that uses DRM. I know some authors and publishers are worried about people making copies of their work for their friends, but I am of the opinion that, for me at least, “obscurity is a much bigger problem than piracy” (to quote author Cory Doctorow.)
SO: No, with a caveat. Amazon has offered up greater royalties to publishers who price their work within a certain price band AND use their DRM. I would be crazy to turn down the considerably higher royalties available through that program, so if they continue to make the (doubled!) royalties contingent on DRM I will adhere to their minimum requirements. However, I will continue to offer the Kindle-compatible files without DRM directly on cooperativepress.com. Hopefully this compromise solution will please both sides — although I’ve heard some rumbling about Amazon dropping the DRM requirement, too. We’ll see what happens — it’s a fast-moving industry right now!
Check back tomorrow for part 2 of our discussion!