When I first started writing, books stayed in print for several years, but over time the publishing/book selling processes have accelerated, so that now, unless you’re a very famous writer, a book will be out of print in a year, or even less.
I can see the logic behind this – but it’s still a bit frustrating for the writer – and for some of my readers, who email me to say that they enjoyed a later book in a series, but can’t get their hands on the earlier ones.
This is why I like e-books. All my sagas, which have been out of print for years, are now available as e-books, as are the first six of my DCI Woodend novels – with the rest coming out later. It’s good for the reader, too, since e-books (especially those which are few years old) are much cheaper than hard copies. And it’s very good for anyone who is just starting writing, because now everyone can get their books very cheaply.
It doesn’t solve all the problems of course. Having a book on amazon is similar in some ways to having one in bookshop – you have make sure it’s not festering away on the back shelves, where nobody can see it, and the best way to do this is by blogging and tweeting, which is second-nature to the new generation of writers, though still part of the learning curve for us older ones.
There are still readers who prefer a physical book, of course, and they have the choice of buying books in this format (though there are some people in the trade who think that while the hardback will survive, the paperback is as good as dead).
The only losers, as far as I can see, are the bookshops, and that is a great pity, because once they’ve gone, they’re never coming back. But I’m afraid that, except in very exceptional circumstances, they will go, just as most small butchers’ and greengrocers’ shops have gone.