Friday, February 19, 2010

Do Books Outdate?

When you write your first novel or non-fiction work, is there any way to know for sure if the book will become outdated? Do authors even consider the possibility?
Gone With the Wind was released decades ago but remains a favorite and is truly a legend in the literary world. Yet an original and complete set of 1920 Britannia Encyclopedias are virtually worth nothing—why?

A well written fiction book should never outdate; a story is a story. But non-fiction writers beware, or should I say, “be aware.” Although history is history and will no longer change, many informational books suffer due to new science or technology. Even a family history book might be considered outdated once new family members are born into this world.

When and if your book outdates you can re-publish it with the same name as a new edition. Understand that with each new edition or format, you will need a new ISBN (International Standard Book Number). ISBN’s are assigned each time a book changes. If you create a recorded or CD version to sell, you will need a new ISBN. Any changes made to a published book with an original ISBN require a new number. FYI, printing additional copies with no changes at all, does not require a new ISBN.

There are few ways to get past the need for a new ISBN. When I wrote my latest non-fiction book, 100 Ways to Market Your Book for Free (or really cheap), I knew all along the book would outdate, and rapidly. I had to decide if I would be willing to re-write updated versions on a regular basis or come up with another solution—I did just that. I published the book as an e-book without an ISBN. Although this does limit my coverage in the book world, because I work directly with authors, I still get direct exposure through my Websites and Blogs. “My audience” is right here.

As an e-book, I can make changes to the text and update the content anytime the information in the book changes, i.e., Website links, new ideas, recommendations from the books readers. Then I simply re-publish the book with the same name. It’s not the traditional method of book publishing, but sometimes you need to think outside the box and do what works for your publication.

So when you are considering writing a non-fiction book, ask yourself these questions:

*Will the content or information in the book outdate?
*Will I need to re-publish the book with updated content in the future?
*Should I purchase a rack of ISBN’s (10-15) rather than just one?
*What is the most cost-effective and simplest way to produce the book based on the need to update the information?
*Should I make the book into a series (see post below at
Authors, please share your own insight in the comment section below.


Patricia Rockwell said...

Having just purchased my first set of ISBN's I read this column with interest. They are expensive and I don't want to use any more than necessary!

myletterstoemily said...

well said.

M. Rose said...

I do have a question about your e-book. Will previous purchasers get the updated information for free? Will they still have to re-buy the book? Will they even know you updated it?

I'm curious how you're planning to convey "new and improved" so 5 years down the line those who bought your book the first time know that it has changed and should redownload/repurchase it.

Sheila Deeth said...

Interesting. I've not used any ISBNs yet, but I know I need to know more about them, so thank you for this.

Unknown said...

Your blog is very informative. Thanks for sharing these wonderful stuff..

Joanne Olivieri said...

Interesting. I have published two poetry chapbooks without ISBN's and am now working on a third and considering using the ISBN.

Carol said...

Thank you everyone for visiting the Blog and leaving such nice comments!
To M Rose,
If you ordered my e-book, you will get the updated version, when available, simply by requesting it. There is some information about that in the book.
I will also post on this Blog when the updated version becomes available.
FYI, tentatively July.

Julie said...

Beautiful Blog! Enjoyed my visit. I write because I love it.. just started to publish on a new blog
It was hard to explain my non-computer-owning Dad why I would publish it for free...