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Nov 29, 2011


Our 1960s Encyclopedia Britannica surrounded by eBook images from the internet


          November is the world book month and I attended a few of the many book activities over the last few days.

          On the auspicious date of 11.11.11 I attended the launch of, a Filipino eBookStore owned by Flipside Digital Content which published the electronic version of my book (available on Amazon, Apple iTune iBookstore, Barnes & Noble). With Flipreads, a wider range of Filipinos can now purchase books electronically even if they don’t have credit cards because they can actually pay at 7-11 stores. The prices are also a bit lower when purchased from this local online store.

          From November 16-18, 2011 upon the invitation of Central Books, my paperback publisher, I attended the 2nd MILF, not the leftist kind but the “write-ist” kind, the Manila International Literary Festival at the Ayala Museum. I invited a co-parent who’s also a book author to join me. The festival was attended by the movers and shakers of the Philippine book industry. It was raining Palanca awardees! The people I met there were names I would read about or hear from my sister, Dada Fres-Felix, who is really the writer in our family having won Palanca and other literary awards herself. Pulitzer prize winners Junot Diaz and Edward P. Jones were also among the guest speakers. People from Random House, Simon & Shuster and other major publishing companies, agents and writers from other countries were also there. Even Samantha Sotto (Ateneo mom-turned Random House bestselling author due to EDSA traffic) was there. So with funny writers Jun Balde, Bebang Siy and many more. Of course Butch Dalisay, Isagani Cruz, Resil Mojares, Ricky Lee and many other big literary names were there.

          It was a refreshing experience for me to be immersed among literary geniuses and wannabes. As in any industry it has its own flavor, its own culture. Someone said there’s a bit of aloofness. Maybe there was, maybe not intentional but it’s just all part of the culture.

          Just a few days before this event, I had a wonderful dinner with my investment banking friends. We had a great time talking about making money in the stock market over a sumptuous dinner treat by a friend who recently made a killing in his recent trade. Yum! (and I’m not just referring to the steak but the profit he made). I’m narrating this to point out that each group has its own culture and I observed the difference in the things that excite these two groups. In one group, the thrill is in making a handsome profit in the trades. In the other group, it’s self expression and reaching as many people as you can through literary work. But of course, the literary group also realizes that at the end of the day, it’s still a business. A positive bottomline is what makes any worthwhile cause sustainable. It’s just that, as the speakers always pointed out, a writer won’t succeed if profit is the primary objective. On the other hand, this is the obvious objective in the trading activities of the other group. I feel happy and quite lucky that I am able to appreciate both cultures. I think it’s a gift that I’m able to enjoy the company of both groups. One feeds my pocket and the other feeds my soul.

          The 2nd MILF was my first taste of joining a literary festival and I learned several things about the current situation of Philippine reading in general. As a country we are not big on book reading. The book reading penetration is so low that Butch Dalisay said, “I would be happier to be read by 1,000 Filipinos than by 10,000 New Yorkers!” Our bookstores still sell mostly imported books, predominantly from the US. We are wanting in homegrown children’s books primarily because these are very expensive to make. The cost of the board paper, colored printing and the process of “glueing” the pages are quite prohibitive.

          The Filipino books that are selling like hot cakes are the so-called poplit (popular literature). These books are short ones mostly in Taglish and I kept hearing about the Bob Ong books from the speakers. It seemed that everyone knew about these books so I quietly asked my friend seated beside me if she knew about them and she answered no. When I got home after the first day I googled Bob Ong and found out that Bob Ong is a pseudonym which came from a popular blog called Bobong Pinoy as in Dumb Pinoy. Since I’m not a big fan of anything that’s derogatory to our culture and country, I lost interest in pursuing my search and looked up the other writers and book bloggers I met there instead. But I do believe that I will have to understand this Bob Ong phenomenon for me to truly understand the majority of Filipino readers. 

          During the many discussions about the emergence of eBooks, I felt that certain sectors had a bit of resistance to it. Even if they acknowledged that it’s the new era upon us, they were not embracing it with open arms. And this is normal. All changes are initially met with resistance. I myself underwent that initial resistance because like most readers, I too like the romance of holding a printed book, flipping the pages. Some even say that they will only patronize eBooks once they come with paper and ink scent! It was when we travelled last summer that I truly appreciated eBooks over pBooks (printed books). I’m the kind of reader who has a few books by my bedside table simultaneously being read. I pick up the book at night depending on the mood I want to be in. But when you travel, you don’t have the luxury of your bedside table, you should only pick one or maybe just a magazine which you can leave behind after reading. So when I was able to bring as many books as I wanted in my eBook reader, I was delighted! Not that I really had time to read when on vacation, it’s just the thought of having all of the choices available in one device.

          Early this year, when I was approached by Flipside Digital Content to publish my book in eBook form, Anthony De Luna (the owner/CEO) gave me what I thought was a great sales pitch for eBooks, “These are the sales graphs for the world’s largest bookstores – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders (which already closed shop) and you can clearly see the decline in the sales of pBooks vs. the steep growth in eBooks. After having been in the eBook business since the ‘90s which might have been too early then, I finally said, ‘This is it!’ when I saw Steve Jobs raise his hand with his iPad in one of his last presentations!”

          Anthony was the head of the Philippine operations of Barnes & Noble until the company decided to pack up because there was not much headway in terms of income from this division. Anthony saw the potential and used the infrastructure left behind by Barnes & Noble and his expertise to put up the Filipino company that will cater to Filipino and other Asian writers. Part of his advocacy is to educate the writers about copyrights and also to make books available and affordable to many Filipinos.

          Among the top global bookstores, Borders did not survive and it’s amazing to observe that it was the one which did not launch its own eBook device. Amazon was the first to come up with its own eBook reader – the Kindle, which is now on its nth edition, to take advantage of the looming change in book reading habits. Barnes & Noble later came up with its Nook. And of course came iPad from Apple, the same company that changed the landscape of the music industry with its iPod.

          There are other eBookReaders in the market and I see it as a good sign. The more manufacturers, the cheaper for the consumers. The cheapest I’ve heard so far is P5,000.00.

          Let me enumerate the advantages of eBooks and Digital Publishing:

  1. The price of an eBook is cheaper than a pBook.
  2. It is so much easier to search for an eBook, just type the title or author or even just the topic and voila! the choices are given to you. No need to make that trip to your favorite bookstore and ask for the customer service person, who is almost always busy with something else, to help you find a book.
  3. Delivery is within seconds. This is very important to a generation whose patience and attention span is getting shorter and shorter.
  4. No need to cut trees for paper.
  5. Of course portability as I earlier mentioned is a huge advantage. Even our children will be spared from carrying heavy books in their school bags.
  6. The problem of the shortage of Philippine children’s books will be partially solved because there won’t be any need for special and expensive printing. (This will hopefully pave the way for instilling more Filipino values in our children as they are exposed to more Filipino children’s books early on.)
  7. Accessibility.

A lot of the discussions I heard during the festival were about the challenge of reaching out to Filipino authors outside of Metro Manila. The resistance of some Filipino  ethnic groups about the choice of Tagalog as the national language was even brought up at one point. My thought is Digital Publishing will play a major role in bridging this gap. All one needs to do is to send his proposed manuscript to a digital publisher.

On the other hand, the challenge of physically transporting printed books to the provinces outside of Metro Manila will likewise be solved by eBooks. Release of books can be simultaneous internationally as long as there is internet available. In fact, the same is true for newspapers. Don’t you notice that in the provinces newspapers are not delivered in the morning but in the afternoon? It’s because they all come from the printing presses that are located in Metro Manila. (Fortunately, the major broadsheets now have their eNewspapers available for free.)

  1. Tapping the electronic interest of Pinoys can lead to an increase in book readership. We Pinoys are the texting capital of the world, we have gotten the hung of texting and using the internet that we actually win competitions through text/online voting! We seem to have the appetite for these things and between a pBook and an eBook the cross-over to book reading can be achieved more easily through the latter. And I find this quite exciting. I’m thinking the “aloofness” factor can fade away and book reading can become more inviting to the Pinoy youth and the masses.
  2. Digital publishing makes the cycle shorter and more economical that I expect more writers and books to be published among Filipinos. There is no need to keep physical inventory of the book. I’m telling you this is one of the biggest challenges I’m facing with my entire book publishing experience – keeping track of the inventory of bookstores per branch, delivering copies, picking up Consignment Sales Reports, issuing Invoices, picking up checks, etc. For my eBook Sales everything is done electronically. I just wait for the Sales Report delivered to my email and the amount of royalties deposited to my designated bank account.


          Of course, there are also challenges that come with the eBook and Digital Publishing. These are:

  1. The cost of a reader (the device) may not be that affordable to the poorer segments of our society. But remember the early days of cellphones? I remember back in the early ‘90s when only the VPs and up in our office were strutting their big cellphones with antenna sticking out because they were the only ones who could afford that expensive new tech device. Now check it out. My maid at home has two cellphones while I only have one. All the drivers, gardeners, even the farmers and fishermen in remote areas now have cellphones which is great because it has made telephone conversation a lot easier and more affordable. For the young ones, it may be unimaginable but there was a time when applying for a telephone line with PLDT took long years! Today the growth in landlines is a fraction of the growth in cellphones. And this is my dream for eBook readers. It will be so cheap that everyone can afford it. In fact, the cellphones can already be the eBook readers if size is not an issue to the user.
  2. The challenge of warding off distractions. In my sons’ university they used to allow students to take down notes using their laptops during lecture. However, with the availability of other online activities in their devices, the teachers observed that some students were not taking down notes but were playing, doing FB and other things not related to the lecture. Because of this, they have disallowed the use of laptops during lectures.
  3. The quality of books published. When asked how she feels about the Kindle Direct Publishing, someone from Simon & Shuster pointed out that readers should remember that they always get what they pay for. So for 99 cents books you get 99 cents worth of reading. This may be true in most cases because of the lack of editing. And this is also true for the music industry. It has become so easy for musicians to upload their music that you can find anything and everything out there. But do you know that because of this phenomenon there are now people whose job is to go through all these uploaded music to find good songs worth producing? So instead of musician wannabes approaching each and every recording company, they can just upload their music, see if people (the ultimate listeners anyway) find their music worth listening to and eventually get discovered by a recording company. It’s the same with books. You can upload your book and reach the readers immediately. And if you’re lucky maybe a big publishing company will approach you.

          Changing the landscape of things is definitely daunting for the big boys. I recall the demise of the film fairly recently. There was a time I was into photography and attended a few workshops and even won prizes in portrait photography. When the digital camera was introduced I also heard all sorts of romantic holding on to the existing and nakagawian na technology. The hard core ones said, “Nothing can beat the film – the grain , the texture…” and so on. And it WAS true. There was a time when digital cameras produced photos that could not be enlarged for posters because of the pixelation. But give any new technology time and it’s bound to get better. And now you see everyone becoming a shutterbug using fancy digital cameras, small cameras, cellphone cameras that the digicam technology just exploded and allowed wide sharing of photos among people all over the world. Kodak’s profitability has never been the same. We don’t even hear this line anymore, “Kodak-an na tayo!”

          There will always be room for the old and romantic way of doing things. Handmade luxury items are still around. Vinyl record collection and film photography are all still around but they have now become specialties not the mainstream but are "nice to have." In fact, it was when the encyclopedia became passé that I got interested in and requested my husband to ask for their childhood set from their old house. This 1960s Encyclopedia Britannica set is now proudly displayed in our library. I doubt if any of my sons ever opened them again after I showed them how we used to do our research but having them around makes me feel that we have with us a historical piece of how doing research has evolved.

          For the meantime, I welcome not only the Advent of Jesus’ birthday (which by the way started last Sunday November 27) but also the advent of the new landscape of book reading and publishing. Joy to the world the eBook has come! 

          Happy parenting and happy reading! 



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Total of 9 comments

@Dec 01, 2011 Guest - Thank you for your feedback. Isn't it amazing? Happy reading - whatever form you prefer :)

Dec 03, 2011 / 12:05 pm

What a great book month it was! Let's keep in touch. :-)

Dec 02, 2011 / 08:59 am

Thanks for the article. I enjoyed reading and following your discovery into the literary and digital world ...

Dec 01, 2011 / 11:34 am

@Nov. 29, 2011 Hi Aimee. I read your article re the MILF and you have a point regarding the lack of focus on readers. Maybe this will be taken into consideration for the next one. Who knows you will be one of the panelists in the next MILF? :)

Nov 30, 2011 / 12:46 pm

@Nette Morelos - Hi I'm glad you enjoyed the read and thank you for your review. And you're right this technology is really something, it's quite exciting, isn't it?

Nov 30, 2011 / 12:42 pm

@Nov 29, 2011 Guest - Thanks, yes we look forward to seeing more great literary pieces from more writers!

Nov 30, 2011 / 12:42 pm

Hi Rose! Thanks for inviting me here! Its a great site! And for joining Read Philippines as well. I'm glad you enjoyed the 2nd MILF, I was also blown away by the the presence of all those talented writers but I was disappointed to find the reader almost non-existent in the discussions. I wrote about my impressions as a reader here Im a Pinoy reader and I agree with you that we should definitely promote reading among Pinoys, including reading of Pinoy authors as well. Good luck to us and more power! :D

Nov 29, 2011 / 09:19 pm

Great article on the new advent of ebooks. I hope this inspires our future authors to be the "youtube" phenoms that gave rise to talents only the internet can spread.

Nov 29, 2011 / 06:32 pm

Hello Rose! This newly launched technology is really very useful to all , thanks too Rose for sharing to us. I also like to say congratulations to you too! Your book "Raising Pinoy Boys" caters not only to pinoys(filipinos) but also to people in all parts of the world. You have done it so diligently and meticulously. Every parent with their loving child can relate to your book since they can pick or learn good thoughts and strategies in parenting. It was really so informative. One can feel sincerity and honesty in the authors' style of sharing herself with her family . Looking forward for more of your success! Nette Morelos

Nov 29, 2011 / 05:07 pm
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