Media Monday

The Association of American Publishers recently reported 23 percent of American publishing sales came from e-books in 2012, which is up from 17 percent in 2011. E-books are growing industry, and while it has not consumed the publishing market, the simultaneous rise of iPads and other tablets forecast a market that is going to keep growing. Meanwhile, during the same month that the Association of American Publishers releaed their report, Barnes & Noble announced another self-publishing platform. This poses the question: could a self-published, ever e-book win the pulitzer?

This answer: probably not, but never say never.

For several years now, self-publishing a book has become increasingly easier. Making money and living off being a published author is as hard as ever, but publishing is a different story. This has led to several different self-publishing outlets, including platforms through Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble.

Earlier this month, NOOK Media announced NOOK Press, an “innovating publishing platform” that offers authors “a fast, easy and free way to write, edit, collaborate and publish the highest quality e-books and directly distribute them to millions of avid readers.” NOOK Press is building off of PubIt, Barnes & Noble’s first self-publishing platform. So with all of these self publishing platforms and options, isn’t it just a matter of time before someone publishes a Pulitzer-winning book?

Here’s the issue with self-publishing e-books — it’s too easy. While some self-published e-books are fun and can be great, there’s also a lot of garbage. When publishing is literally just a few clicks of the mouse away, anyone from a child to an adult can self-publish a book.

To prove a point, I self-published a book of my own this past weekend. I don’t mean to self promote, but you should all check out “Gyan Rosling” online. The book is one sentence long (“Gyan Rosling and I got married.”), and at 99 cents, it’s a total steal.

But really, like many other self-published books, it is awful and not worth your time. I would have made it free, but that’s not an option. I “wrote” and “published” “Gyan Rosling” to show how easy it is to publish something worth anyone’s time. It took me all of five minutes — writing it and publishing it.

Theoretically, the Pulitzer Prize is supposed to go to the best American book published each year. While this isn’t always the case, it is the ideology the Pulitzer Prize is built on. Here’s the question though: if a book is good enough to win the Pulitzer, wouldn’t it be good enough to be published and printed in the first place?

That’s not to say there are only bad self-published e-books or that self-published e-books are inherently bad. There have been several successful ones. “John Dies at the End,” a comical horror story, was originally published online as a web series starting in 2001. It eventually became an online manuscript in 2004, before being printed in 2007 and again in 2009. Earlier this year, a film adaptation premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

To say that a self-published e-book will never win the Pulitzer probably isn’t fair; when it comes to shifting digital landscapes, its bad to say “always” or “never.” I once read an article from 2007 about how MySpace was developing a social media monopoly. I am sure in hindsight the author feels slightly foolish.

But in the immediate future, don’t expect a Pulitzer Prize to go to a non-traditional, unprinted book.

Photo Credit: Hannah Hadidi | Daily Texan Staff

In addition to the sheer number of books lining the shelves of UT Libraries, hundreds of thousands more are stored unseen in the form of e-books.

For UT Libraries, the rise of the digital age has involved transitioning from exclusively print content to also offering e-books that form the cores of UT’s digital databases.

“Today, we offer access to over 750,000 e-books and texts, and add more every day, in addition to tens of thousands of electronic journals and databases of digital content to support research in every subject and department at UT,” said Susan Macicak, the interim collection development officer at the UT Libraries.

Macicak said UT Libraries began to offer online material in the form of electronic journals in the early ‘90s. E-books were slower to follow, but eventually gained popularity through their benefits over print copies, Macicak said.

E-books require fewer staff and labor hours, which would have been spent binding, labeling, repairing, shelving and maintaining a precise preservation temperature for paper materials, according to Macicak. Most significantly, e-books provide reliable access to content at any time during any day, she said.

UT Libraries began their digital transition in 1989 when the Balcones Library Service Center, an outpost of the Engineering Library, adopted an electronic database called CASSIS that contained patent and trademark information. The Engineering Library became UT’s first all-electronic library. To access the database users had to load indexes into a computer via multiple CD-ROMs, and patent information was stored on microfilm.

Today’s UT Libraries provide a more modern process to search databases. Students can search online via portals in the UT Libraries’ website that filter by subject, with each subject having a reference to a librarian who is a specialist in that field. In addition, students can use the search platform scoUT to browse more than 100 million records from media including journals, art images, student theses, music and video recordings.

Librarian Amy Rushing oversees the University’s Digital Repository — a collection of student theses and dissertations, faculty research and department records students can search through.

“We created a digital repository back in 2008,” Rushing said. “The [records] in the repository are for the most part only available electronically.”

Macicak said the proportion of print material to electronic material has been decreasing over the years because of the increasing availability of e-books from suppliers.

“Primary emphasis is on acquiring current materials, with a special emphasis on increasing access to online scholarly resources,” Macicak said. “Online access is preferred when it is determined to best meet the needs of the Libraries’ users.”

With an increasing role in UT Libraries’ resources, electronic records comprise a growing proportion of the Libraries’ budget. Macicak said about 60 to 65 percent of the collection budget is now dedicated to acquiring electronic resources. UT Libraries spokesman Travis Willmann said UT’s total collection budget for the 2011-2012 school year amounted to roughly $14.8 million.

In addition to the large expenditures on electronic resources, Macicak said the Libraries will continue to offer print content in the future.

“It’s obvious that a blend of formats is still very essential to supporting the range of research and teaching of an institution like UT,” Macicak said.

With finals and research projects coming up at the end of the semester, students may find the array of both print and electronic resources at UT’s libraries helpful with studying and research. Meanwhile the Libraries will continue to add e-books and electronic records to their various databases.

“Technology enables new ways of working with content and it will be exciting to see where this takes us in the next few decades,” Macicak said.

Published on March 20, 2013 as "UT e-book collection on the rise".