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Sandy Cummins tells it like it is in the Electronic Publishing Industry. She delivers cutting edge insight into this new technology sweeping the Publishing Industry into the 21st Century. Read the Interview and see the hurdles this Industry must overcome.
Writers Exchange E-Publishing recently won an EPPIE Award- from the Electronic Publishing Internet Connection- for the Science Fiction novel, "The Friends" by Rick Sutcliffe.
Arts Editor Pamela Faye interviewed Sandy Cummins - Publisher of Writers Exchange - to gather excitement from the never-ending flow of Ebook releases from this successful Australian Ebook Publisher.
Hello Sandy: Congratulations on your 2004 EPPIE win! You had several Ebooks nominated for EPPIE Awards, two being Children's Stories, "Blue Paint" by Liam Maher, and "Cody Knows" by Karen Wiesner, along with one Self Help Ebook "Taking Responsibility Builds Trust" by Karen Wiesner. This EPPIE Award is a wonderful honor for Writers Exchange, when did you begin publishing Ebooks?
Sandy: In October 2000 we opened to submissions. Our first book, the children's picture book "The Butterfly Garden" by Denise Gasta was released in December 2000.
Pamela: Does Writers Exchange publish, by any other means, other than Ebook downloads and CD's? And what countries do you sell Ebooks throughout, Sandy?
Sandy: We also sell print versions of our books.
Because the company is online we can sell the books anywhere that has internet access.
Most of our customers are from the United States, but we have also sold books to people in Australia, Britain, Ireland, Africa, Sweden, The Philippines, China, Belgium and many other places.
Pamela: How many Ebooks has Writers Exchange published, and what genres do you cater to? Is there any genre that you do not publish?
Sandy: We have exclusively published over 130 books so far, as well as about 20 distribution books for others.
We publish all genres except erotica and horror.
We are closed to submissions on picture books for the foreseeable future due to the number we have waiting in our queue and the long time it takes for all the artwork to be completed.
Pamela: Writers Exchange also has Children's Musical Ebooks, along with a new and exciting page turning format for reading Ebooks. Please enlighten readers about these exciting formats?
Sandy: There are many exciting things happening with our picture books, both now and in the future.
Currently we are releasing all our picture books in a new html format.
Each book is designed for either 1024x768 or 800x600 screen sizes and the customer can download the version that suits their system.
These books have the background picture of an open book, thus recreating the printed book style, children are used to, as closely as we can on screen.
On top of this background is placed the illustration and text of the book.
On the right are navigation buttons to help small children read the books themselves.
There is facility for sound - a "Play Music" button for the musical books and a "Read to Me" button for the future audio books that we will be producing.
We have also bought the software to create books where the pages "flip" over for a more realistic effect (with the sound of paper rustling) and these will be made for online use and for DVDs on either the computer or television.
I do not expect the "flip" books to become available for at least another year though, as we have enough to keep us busy going back and remaking the older books in the new style.
Pamela: What are your views on Ebook Readers Sandy? Do you feel there is one all-round reader in the market place that caters to the specific needs of Ebooks?
Sandy: No, but I wish there were. I have a Palm reading device which I absolutely love and so does everyone I show it to. I use it for reading and editing.
For epublishing to really take off we need a cheap reading device that accepts most formats, has a color screen and at least note-taking/editing facilities.
Some companies have done some great attempts, but usually they decide to adopt a proprietary format, which always ends up failing. They are so busy "protecting themselves" that they don't take into account that readers want to use their existing books and also have the freedom to buy books from any publisher they want, not be restricted to only one format.
At the moment to buy a "cheap" Palm most people in Australia are looking at least $300 and that's just from ebay!
Most shops here don't stock any reading devices, and those that do don't seem to know what they are for anyway. Which is a real shame as the devices are brilliant for so many people from all walks of life.
Whoever designs a cheap, useful reading device will definitely make a fortune down the track, because the epublishing industry will really stand behind them.
Pamela: Which Ebook format delivers the best sales to Writers Exchange? Do CD's sell well throughout the Electronic Publishing Industry?
Sandy: I am not actually sure of the answer to that, my company sends the customers to a download page that holds ALL the formats - the $3.00 book price allows them to download as many formats as they wish, and we cannot track that at this time.
CD's sell a bit online, but none that we have put in computer shops have ever sold, which was a big surprise.
Pamela: How would you like to see the Electronic Publishing Industry unfold in the future? Do you believe Ebooks will be the most popular way of reading for coming generations?
Sandy: I would love for people to know about ebooks! I think there are many people who would never want to buy print again if they knew about this option.
All those people, like myself, who are allergic to paper dust, or have RSI from using the computer too much and don't have the strength to hold heavy books for long really need ebooks and the very light reading devices you can buy. Even those who just read so quickly and voraciously that their libraries and bookstores can't keep up, they would really benefit from being able to buy online without having to hunt around, have a huge selection to choose from (there are many electronic publishers after all), get immediate delivery AND then have the ability to load 20 or more books into a reading device.
It is great for commuters, children not wanting to lug heavy books and even for those of us who love to read at night next to a sleeping spouse who objects if you leave the light on to read.
Yes I definitely believe ebooks are here to stay, the main portion of the population just have to find them!
Pamela: Do Writers Exchange Authors come from all around the world? Who is your best selling author... your best selling book?
Sandy: Yes they certainly do, I think we have an author from every continent at the moment.
Best selling author, that is hard to answer, some of my authors promote in fits and starts and sometimes you can see a huge burst of sales after a particular promotional activity. So the best selling author at any one time can definitely change.
Long term however, I would say it would be Rita Hestand due to her continuous marketing efforts.
As for best selling book, I am not sure none have stood out head and shoulders above the rest.
Pamela: You have young children going to school Sandy, does the school system use Ebooks for teaching purposes? Does Writers Exchange have many educational Ebooks to offer, for school libraries? Is there a growing market place in the educational system?
Sandy: Actually I homeschool the kids, so I am not really sure. From my experience though, most schools, as well as the general population in Australia don't really seem to know that ebooks exist. Obviously there are exceptions to that statement, but that is the general condition.
Yes we do have some educational books, not necessarily text books but educational nonetheless. They are grouped together on our "educational" page for ease of reference.
I think the educational system will be embracing ebooks eventually, but that is a little way away in Australia.
Pamela: Do you see the possibility of Ebooks readers as being a large part of the teaching profession for generations to come?
Sandy: Yes, I do, but that may not be for another five to ten years yet. People must remember that we are pioneers, on the leading edge of a new technology. It takes time for public awareness to build.
Pamela: Has Writers Exchange been one of the adventurous Electronic Publishing Companies, leading modern technology into the future?
Sandy: I like to think so - but really EVERY e-publisher is, it is too new for them to be anything else.
Pamela: Are you a member of any electronic publishing groups supporting the Electronic Publishing Industry?
Sandy: Yes, EPIC and a few others, but it is hard for their presence to really be felt here as most of the e-publishing community is based in the United States.
Pamela: Do you find promotion of New Releases of Ebooks from Writers Exchange easier with the evolving development of modern technology?
Sandy: Yes, without the internet and email there wouldn't be any promotion. We need to promote to those people who already use the internet as they are more likely to buy a book that way. However we can't limit ourselves to just that arena also, we need to introduce people to what is available online for them to want to check out the Net.
Pamela: Modern technology has opened up a whole new world for the Publishing Industry, what advice would you impart on authors and publishers who are contemplating venturing into this exciting new industry?
Sandy: Don't expect to make a living off it in the near future. If you are looking for a quick get rich scheme this isn't it.
However, if you believe in ebooks you will get your reward eventually, just don't become despondent if you don't reap the benefits in the first few years.
And authors, YOU MUST PROMOTE - electronic publishers are only small businesses and don't have the time to promote as much as is needed for your book to make a decent living for you - you must help. If you don't promote your book won't sell, if you do, you will see sales in big numbers.
Pamela: What do you foresee for the future of the Electronic Publishing Industry?
Sandy: I see a very large future, it will be a mainstream entertainment option for many people as the word gets out.
Pamela: Lastly, what are your goals for Writers Exchange as modern technology rushes forward into the 21st Century?
Sandy: To stay in business, and sell enough books that the royalties will support all my authors and staff without the need of outside work to pay the bills.
I also intend to keep on expanding and utilizing new technologies as they come out.
Thank you for the insight into the Electronic Publishing Industry Sandy, and Good Luck for the future with Writers Exchange E-Publishing.
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