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Travel E-Book Overload: Or, How to Be an Expert in a Few Easy Steps

by Michelle Schusterman Aug 11, 2010
The rise of the e-book may boost publishing sales, but the “EZ creation process” is more of a threat to writing itself.

“With this EZ tutorial, anyone can make an e-book!”

It was this advertisement that flipped my switch. iPads, Kindles, nooks and apps – bring ’em on. I love the feel of a paper book, but I can’t deny the greatness of having my entire library stored on one portable gadget. Interactive children’s e-books? Thrillers with multi-media features? Count me in; I’ve been sailing the “technology will save the publishing industry” ship so long I can’t see the shore anymore.

“E-books are great. If you don’t think so, you’re wrong.”

I attended a writer’s conference in July, and one publisher had this to say: “E-books are great. If you don’t think so, you’re wrong.” He got a big laugh, but he meant it. Kindle-version sales may only account for a small percentage of most book sales at the moment, but that small percentage is significantly more than it was a year ago. E-readers aren’t going anywhere, at least in my opinion.

But this publisher was talking about e-books published through traditional publishers – in the Travel section, the guides, the narratives, the commercial stuff and the literary. Regardless of the content, a lot of work went into getting those words out of the writer, printed and bound for us to purchase. Self-publishing, while a different route, also takes a tremendous amount of effort.

And e-books? How much effort goes into writing one?

These “EZ creators” really can help even the least tech-savvy people create an impressive presentation; graphics, pictures, great formatting, eye-catching cover. It’s easy to create a professional-looking package, maybe even something worth charging a buck or two for.

But this package can also be used as a disguise. The simple process to become a “published author” means anyone can be an expert. A couple with two trips to Cancún under their belt can put together a travel guide to coastal Mexico and slap a $2.99 price tag on it. Cheaper than what you might find on Amazon, but worth it?

The other problem, and one I find more interesting, is how much this contributes to the sheer amount of information there is on the Internet.

As I writer, I have to do a lot of research. If I Google “travel to Cancún,” I get 5,440,000 results. How much is accurate? How much can I rely on for journalistic integrity? And how many will bring on the thousand pop-up ads of doom?

In ten years, how much information will be online, and how much of it will actually be informative?

On the other hand, social media and the rise of the blog has put more power into the hands of the people, leading to (in some cases) more honesty and integrity than one normally finds on the six o’clock news.

Talent and skill aside, some writers just have an easier road to traditional publication than others, and the ebook platform puts us on more equal footing. If the quality is there, the writing will eventually rise above the garbage. Or at least, I’d like to hope.

In the end, anyone can make an e-book. Writing one, writing a book, writing a good book that’s worth not just the cost but the time it takes to read, is another matter entirely.

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