We've all heard the growing debate about the rise of the ebook, and the question of self publishing vs. traditional publishing.
As is often the case, both sides have valid points and not-so-valid points.
Some say badly written, non-edited writing will flood the market with drivel and that the overall quality of literature will slowly but eventually erode. (I didn't know we needed self-published writers for that...oops.)
Others believe the free market has a way of sorting it all out, and ultimately the best will find an audience while the rest fades into obscurity.
Unless you have a time travelling DeLorean that can hit 88mph, predicting the future is a mug's game at the best of times, but let's give it a nudge, eh?
For many years musos unable to score a record deal have released their music on their own indie labels, marketing their work via YouTube, Facebook, My Space, you know the culprits...
A select few have had success. They've become "name" artists, either continuing to self-release, or by signing on with one of the big companies.
The rest are simply swept away by the net's own, quick but cruel version of time and tide. And sadly, some of those sucked in to the world wide web's big black digital hole are actually very good.
In reality, that's the way it's always been out there in the wider showbiz world.
It seemed that writing wouldn't go in that same direction - but that was before the rapid advent of the ebook via Kindle, then the Kobo and the Nook and the Iriver and the Ipad and other ereaders, and of POD (Print On Demand) publishing.
There have already been examples of self-pubbed authors breaking through to both a wider audience and critical acceptance.
Scott Sigler self published his earlier works as ebooks and podcasts, achieving strong sales and then signing with Hodder and Stoughton.
Jack Henderson followed a similar route with his first thriller, "Maximum Impact," now published by Sphere. Booklist called it "accomplished." Not drivel, then.
J. A. Konrath, on the other hand, is the traditionally published author who began self-pubbing his own ebooks to great success. Some commentators believe he is an exception to the rule. J.A. has plenty to say about this on his blog, "A Newbie's Guide To Publishing." If you're not already a fan, check it out.
Almost as if to annoy the naysayers, publishing giant Hachette announced in July 2010 that James Patterson had surpassed the one million mark with ebooks sales of his novels. Well okay but he is James Patterson.
Later the same month Amazon announced ebook sales on its site had surpassed those of hardcover titles for the first time.
Confused?Join the club. Perhaps everyone is a little bit right and a little bit wrong. Maybe no-one really has a clue what's going to happen next. DeLorean, anyone?
As I'm writing this blog changes are happening, seemingly daily. Bestselling author David Morrell has now published his new novel directly to ebook. He's not the only one putting out their own backlist or new titles: F Paul Wilson. Lee Goldberg and Scott Nicholson are just a few of the many doing similar things.
And thousands of new authors are self publishing and promoting their own works and selling thousands of ebooks in the process.
What is clear is that the game is changing - the extent may be unknowable, but it just might be seismic.
For myself, I don't believe traditionally published books are headed for the great big library in the sky. Not at all. Just as radio survived TV, just as cinema held its own when videoes, then DVD's and YouTube came along, so I believe the traditional book can happily co-exist alongside the ebook, podcast, and the self publishing brigade, and that they all have their own little gems to offer.
There, I've said it.
Do I have a history of being right about these things, or about things in general? (Er...no, not according to my wife. But let's not go there...)
I wonder if all this hasn't happened before, in different eras with different technologies...It's a little known fact, and I sometimes have to keep reminding myself, that classic authors such as Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain and Zane Grey all self published and went on to stellar careers.
In the 1940's Penguin launched the first pocket paperbacks. The snobs frowned, but as we all know the paperback has dominated bookstores for over half a century.
That's it for me, predicting what lies ahead is exhausting stuff. Nostradamus did it better even if he did speak in riddles. I need to relax, perhaps with a good movie. In fact, I know just the thing. A couple of hours in the company of Marty McFly and good 'ol Doc Brown and his DeLorean.
Yep, I'm going back to the future.
Maybe we all are.