February 26, 2013

E-books Part Two

I wrote last week about how I disagreed with one of the statements in an article written by Don Sakers in the April edition of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine.

This week, I’d like to present something more from his article.

“First, here’s the simple matter of availability. In the past, most books had a short shelf life. An average SF book would be on sale at general bookstores for a few months, a year at most, before it went out of print. If you’d just discovered an author and wanted to read all of their previous books, you’d be haunting used book stores.

“E-books, however, never go out of print. Only discover an author after her twelfth book? No problem – just go online and buy the previous eleven.”

As a reader who still haunts used books stores trying to fill in gaps in my collection, I heartily agree with Mr. Sakers. This is one of the best things about ebooks. Because they do not take up valuable storage space in a warehouse while the paper gets damp and decays, they have a much longer shelf life. They can be stored indefinitely in a computer, and can stay in print as long as the publisher – or the author – choose to have them remain available. It becomes very easy to catch up with the older books you want to read.

Keeping in mind that what Mr. Sakers says about SF books applies to all genres, he goes on to proclaim, “Nearly ninety years worth of SF books have been published; authors and their agents are working furiously to put much of that into e-book format.” I’d like to add my thanks to the families and estates of deceased authors who are allowing those works to be published in electronic formats.

E-books are very convenient, as long as you keep them charged. You can carry a whole library around in your fingertips. They weigh very little. As the arthritis advances into my hands and wrists, I can no longer read any book that weighs more than a standard paperback while lying in bed at night. If I want to read a large paperback, or a hard cover book, I have to be sitting at a desk or table, and have the book on the table. I simply can’t hold that much weight in my hands.

Yet, I’ve been reading huge collections on my Nook. The Mark Twain collection is over 6,000 pages, and the H. G. Wells collection is slightly thicker. I can read books only a few decades old, as well – because adding Diane Duane’s entire Young Wizards collection added no weight to my Nook.

Overhead is significantly decreased on e-books as well, a point that Mr. Sakers does not address in his article. Although the author, editors, publishers, cover artists, and agent still must be paid, there are no storage fees. Amazon charges a shipping fee of around two cents per book to help cover bandwidth charges, and the book is delivered more or less instantly. That’s much less than the $6 super saver shipping that takes a week, on average, before the book is in your hands to read. Because of these factors, e-books are usually less expensive than the print version of the same content.

Don’t get me wrong. I love turning pages, and smelling the paper and glue scent of new books. I have more than 5,000 print books in my home and have no intention of stopping buying print books. But I also love holding my Nook in one hand while I read, and turning the page with a touch of my thumb. I love the ability to purchase eight to twelve e-books for the same $25 gift card that will get one or two print books. I love discovering new authors and catching up with old ones. And as an author, I love the ability to get my books into the hands of people who will love my characters as much as I do.

February 19, 2013

Correcting a Fallacy

Today I’d like to talk about ebooks, and specifically their impact on the publishing world. I was just reading my (electronic!) copy of Analog, which is a contradiction in terms in and of itself, if you think about it. There is an article by Don Sakers which begins on page 102, where he writes some about ebooks, then gives reviews of several books which are available in both print and e-formats. Although his article is specifically about SF, it applies to all genres of writing. Mr. Sakers says, “Another consequence of e-books is removing traditional publishers as gatekeepers of content. This has both good and bad implications for SF. On the positive side, much more good SF will be published. The age of the mass market is fading; in a sense, we’re entering the age of the niche. To be sure, some niches are larger than others. There will always be big-name authors – but now, we’ll also have medium-size names, small names, tiny names, microscopic and nano-scale names all equally available to readers.

“The bad news is that the same expansion will result in enormously more bad SF. No one reader has the time to wade through thousands of unsuitable books in search of the one or two that are suitable.”

I’ve seen this argument repeated too often to count. Go back and read that last sentence again. When he’s talking about ebooks removing traditional publishers as gatekeepers, what he actually means is self-publishing of ebooks. Mr. Sakers seems to be discounting the thousands of traditionally published ebooks that are available to the reading public. The debate here is not electronic vs. print books, but traditional vs. self-publishing. His opinion is clear: self-publishing will force readers to wade through thousands of horribly written manuscripts in order to discover the one or two gems that have been written by good (i.e. traditionally published) authors.

No matter who states it, the argument is always drawn on the same lines, there will be thousands of horrible things to wade through in order to find the rare gems. I take exception to the math used by people who parrot this argument.

First, it’s very difficult to tell, before purchase, whether a book is self or traditionally published.

Second, there are many authors who have been traditionally published for many years, who are now self-publishing alongside their traditionally published works. Does the fact they are now self-pubbing suddenly make their work inferior? Of course not.

It is very true that many authors, myself included, would not be published at all if not for the financially feasible options of print-on-demand and e-books. However, it is absolutely not true that there are thousands of bad self-published books to every two or three gems.

I read constantly. I cannot get to sleep at night without reading. I read self-published books. I read traditionally published books. I read long out-of-print books that have been restored and made available as e-books. In 2012 I read 410 works containing well over 45,000 pages. That’s pleasure reading, not the reading I do for school classes, or for other informational purposes. It’s also books, not counting magazines, blogs, and my morning cereal box.

Every once in a while I find a book that’s so badly written, or so badly edited, that I can’t bear to finish it. More often I find a book that has outrageously stupid mistakes in the writing or editing – things that should have been caught by either the writer or one of the many editors. I find this sort of mistake in both traditionally published and self-published books.

By and large, most of the things I read are good enough to finish the book. Many of them are good enough to re-read. Unless I have an atypical experience as a reader, I would say that the ratios presented in Mr. Sakers' article are exactly reversed. Readers of traditional and self-published books have the privilege of enjoying thousands of well-written, well-edited stories, while knowing that they will definitely come across the few horrible pieces, which are both self- and traditionally published.

February 15, 2013

A Glitch in the System

I posted yesterday that my sweet Christmas romance, A Gigolo for Christmas,  was free at Amazon, because I had scheduled it for a free promotion day for Valentine's Day. When I checked at the end of the day to see how many copies had been given away, I was amazed that no one seemed to want it. (I can't see who, just how many.) I looked at the book's Amazon page, and it was listed at the regular price of $3.99. Hmmm. I then looked in the area where I manage the free days, and the Valentine's Day freebie day wasn't even listed. I don't know how it disappeared between scheduling it last month and today, but somehow it did. So I did the only sensible thing...I made it free for today.
Sorry for the miscommunication yesterday. It's free today. Really. I promise. (If it isn't, let me know, and I'll have some serious words with the Amazon people.) You can get it here.


P. S. If you don't have a Kindle, you can get a free kindle reading app for your computer so you can read this fabulous romantic novella.

February 14, 2013

Have a little free romance in your life today!

Here I am, halfway through my workday, when I suddenly realize I haven't let anyone know my sweet romantic (Christmas) story is free today in honor of that overly-commercialized holiday when everyone is supposed to love each other. Show yourself a little love and grab this book while the grabbing's free! All right, it's a Christmas romance, but this being February doesn't take any of the romance out of the book.
Did I mention it's free today? You can get it here.
P. S. If you don't have a Kindle, you can get a free kindle reading app for your computer so you can read this fabulous romantic novella.

February 12, 2013

Sanity is Just Around the Corner

First, let me apologize for missing my post last week. It was a strange week that included many calls to various doctors and many visiting professionals coming into our home, all of which had to be coordinated by me. In addition, my family is facing some interesting financial changes which were in the midst of being investigated. And then we had some relatives who are high up on our favorites list suddenly go from “maybe we might be able to come down on one of these three weekends” to “we’ll be there in about four hours”.

Now the medical things are settling down, the financial decisions are made, and the family had a nice visit and have returned home. It’s time to breathe, and then get back into the “normal” crazy swirl of my life. I’ve got school lessons to catch up on and a blog to write, among other things.

In January I read 9 books, for a total of 1491 pages. I’m still working on making the chairs for my miniature book shop. They’re going rather slowly partly because the embroidery on the seats is painful for my wrist, and partly because the idea of making nine chairs is rather daunting. I think I’m going to finish just the ones for the downstairs, and let my mom finish the ones for the upstairs, since she’s supposed to be doing the upstairs anyway.

I’m doing well in my online classes, and learning a lot. So far I’ve gotten 100% on all my after-lesson quizzes. However, the only thing that actually counts toward my grade is the final exam, and even then, it’s a Pass/Fail class. You either get the certificate or not. Not that grades matter right now anyway, I’m after knowledge rather than grades.

During the last two weeks, I bought something I’ve been wanting for a long time, and finally was able to get: the complete series of MacGyver on DVD. It’s still as good as it has always been, and I’ve been really enjoying revisiting the world where most things can be cured with duct tape and a Swiss Army knife.