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Published:August 21st, 2010 14:16 EST
Good e-Books Have Been Out There for a Long Time: Will They Get a Second Look?

Good e-Books Have Been Out There for a Long Time: Will They Get a Second Look?

By Djelloul (Del) Marbrook (Editor/Mentor)

Back in 1999 when the pioneering e-book publisher OnlineOriginals published my short novel, Alice Miller`s Room, the smart money was on e-publishing as a fad. Essays appeared day after day making the case for the book printed on paper as unassailably perfect. People won`t want to give up the tactile experience, the book as an art object, it was said.

The critics refused to review e-books, writing them off as vanities. Who were they fooling? They don`t review most small press books because the journals they write for don`t get enough advertising from them. Every day a worthy book is published and ignored by the critical establishment not because it lacks merit but because its publisher lacks clout and advertising dollars.

Today e-books are finally catching on and electronic reader sales are skyrocketing. Carolyn Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster, said in an interview with Julie Bosman of the New York Times that e-books currently made up about 8 percent of the company`s book revenue " and predicted that it could be as high as 40 percent within three to five years. " The playing field is a bit more level, although hardly level enough. The literary pundits keep up their various pretenses, claiming that more books are published than can be read, claiming that everything that deserves to be published is published, claiming all sorts of foolish and easily discredited notions to perpetuate an establishment that must change.

One of the most intriguing questions attending the recent ascendancy of the e-book is how the critical establishment will respond to it. All the models for promoting e-books are fluid, adjusting day by day to this developing industry. How will advertising influence the decisions of the critical print establishment? Or will the establishment, too, move into cyberspace? And how will it be financially supported there? Gatekeepers fiercely defend their turf, so what happens when the turf under their feet moves into a new dimension? Until now e-book publishers have generally lacked financial wherewithal to promote e-books the way the Big Six publishing houses have traditionally promoted paper books. But as the e-book press gains market share this situation must inevitably reconfigure itself.

I don`t believe the e-book will kill the traditional book any more than television killed radio or movies. But I think the publishing industry will reconstitute itself. It`s likely fewer paper books will be published. It`s likely their nature will change. Perhaps only books with enviable aesthetic characteristics will be published in paper. I think reading habits will change. Graphics designers will have a field day on the iPad and other exciting platforms. Hypertext will quicken research and imbue books with a heightened spirit of adventure and discovery.

My little book is about an artist who conceives the idea of building a magical room for a battered child. The idea becomes an alchemical elixir, improbably bringing quite different people together and stirring them with love. OnlineOriginals, which was then relatively new, though it had a Booker nominee, took a chance on it. I was an unknown author. I had not yet published poems or stories or won any prizes. E-publishing holds out hope to writers who like me are trying to break in from outside. Many good e-books have been on the web for a long time. With new manufacturers and new generations of reading devices coming to the market, there will be an effort to adapt these texts to new formats in an industry where standardization would have helped popularize the e-book sooner.

Today even the big publishers are turning to the e-format. But in 1999 the smart money was on the e-book`s failure. David Gettman, the founder of OnlineOriginals, which is based in London, was a voice in the wilderness. His acceptance of my book gave me the courage to go on writing. Now Prakash Books of India is publishing another of my short novels, Artemisia`s Wolf. It will be a traditional print book. But I haven`t turned my eye from e-publishing, not by a long shot. My short story, Artists Hill, " is online at Literal Latté. It was adapted from an unpublished novel, Crowds of One, and won Literal Latté`s first prize in fiction in 2008.

If you think you might enjoy a story about love, honor and human nobility in the midst of a tragedy, I invite you to visit OnlineOriginals and consider my book and the publisher`s many other wonderful titles.

Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.

His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal Latte first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.

He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.

Del`s book, Far From Algiers   New review of Far from Algiers
Artists Hill, Literal Latte fiction first prize
Djelloul Marbrook Blog
His mother`s art:   His aunt`s art: