Recently, the Pulitzer Prize board expanded their guidelines to include online newspapers. One of the most prestigious journalism awards can now be given to a completely electronic newspaper.
When I started freelancing, online publications were easier to break into. They have lower overhead and no space limitations, but they weren't as prestigious. It was more impressive to be in print. The Pulitzer board has taken a step to change that.
So much in publishing has to do with money. Advances, marketing campaigns, sales, all come down to money. And these days, there's not much of it to go around. But what type of book costs nothing to publish? An e-book.
For years, everyone has been skeptical of the e-book, myself included. I enjoy holding the book I'm reading, I enjoy being able to stick a mass market paperback in my pocket for a long train ride, I like seeing the cover art and turning the pages. But I feel the same way about newspapers, and my kind are a dying breed.
What if the Pulitzer Prize board expanded its guidelines even further? What if they included books which were only published electronically? What if one of those books won the award? Would people go out and purchase a Kindle or Sony reader so they could read the latest Pulitzer Prize winning novel? Would e-books gain new recognition and a new audience, making paper books obsolete?
If an e-book wins a Pulitzer, I am confident that it will be the bestselling e-book on the market to date. It may even sell better than some of the bestselling print books. But paper books becoming obsolete? I think that could never happen. I believe that actual books will always have a place in this industry. But I used to say the same thing about newspapers. Now I'm not so sure.
What I do know is that e-books will gain recognition and popularity. More e-books will be published because of the low cost and, for the same reason, more people will be reading them. Why buy a $25 hardcover when you can purchase the e-book for $5? Also, as our society continues to become more environmentally aware, we'll prefer e-books because they use minimal natural resources.
Recognition is the first step to shifting the market. Once e-books are recognized for quality writing and publishing, people will begin purchasing them. Prestigious award committees, such as the Pulitzer, have the influence to make that shift. Will paper book sales plummet because of e-books? Probably not. But I do think electronic publishing will quickly improve and become more widespread, and more people will be downloading their reading material.