Fear in Writing: The E-Book and the Writer

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The E-Book and the Writer

Okay, okay, so it's E-Book Week.  And I am a writer/reader so I suppose I should give it some ink.  Who am I kidding?  E-books are here to stay.
Disclaimer: I do not have an e-book, therefore this post (like most of my posts, really) is my strict opinion and not my knowledgeable one.

Nook.  Kindle.  Next e-reader.  Take your pick because, chances are, you will own one someday.  I will not predict that paper&gllud books will completely disappear, but I will predict that the vast majority of the next few generations will be reading on these.  Think about it: my 4yo son has never seen a corded phone, barely seen a VCR (we don't have one), is versed in the DVR and on-demand mode of our television, can work my touchpad cell phone, and is confused by audio tapes (yes, I still have a few mix tapes from high school!).  What are the chances that the next generation will scoff at books?  Pretty good, I'd say.

So for those of us holdouts, how long can we make it?  I'll hold out until Ray Bradbury's world comes about.  Until there are piles of burning books and they rip my wrinkled and dog-eared Les Miserables from my cold, dead hands.  Ok, slight exaggeration, but only slight.

However, even if I want to ignore e-books as a reader, I canNOT ignore them as a writer.  It would be ignorant of me not to push for my books to be published in electronic format.  It would be ignorant of me not to attend conferences and get to know the nuances of the e-reader.

So here are today's questions:
Do you own an e-book?  If so, which one and what do you love/hate about it?
As a writer, what plans do you have to market to the e-reader crowd?  Are you burying your head in the sand and hoping it will pass you by, or are you tackling this techno craze head on?

For other great posts about E-Book Week, check out the blogs of L. Diane Wolfe and Alex J. Cavanaugh.  And, if you remember, I have written about e-books before!  Click here for my past article on the effect of e-readers on book publicity.

For those who are used to my sort-of-weekly Writing Prompt Wednesdays meme, I have decided to discontinue it for a while.  The response was so-so and I wasn't even moved to write today, so ach, maybe in the future...

Bookmark and Share


  1. Good questions!

    I don't own an e-reader, but I'm completely open to getting one (waiting for the format wars, DRMs, etc to get worked out). As a writer, my book is available on the Kindle. I haven't promoted that fact very much, but I'm going to start putting the buy link for it on my promo stuff.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. As a reader, I don't yet have an e-reader. But I agree with you, they will penetrate the market to a pretty high degree, especially if you consider cell phone readers (coming). I'm sure I'll get one someday.

    As a writer, hopefully all my work will be available for ereaders. I just found out DIAMONDS can be pre-ordered for Kindle. I blogged about it today, in fact! HERE

  3. Elizabeth- You are more open than I. But I suppose it would help to know what we're marketing TO.

    Alan- Great, Alan! I am wondering if that is a separate contract you have to agree to? Hmmm...I see a guest post coming on...

  4. No, but many years from now I hope to own a tricked out, cheaper, with a longer battery life, ipad. :0)

  5. I own a Kindle, read Barnes & Noble e-books on my Mac, and have read e-books from various websites.

    I bought the Kindle because I was tired of being buried under a sea of print books, I was tired of wanting to reread an old favorite but unable to find it among my countless shelves and boxes full of books, and I was tired of buying another copy of a book I all ready owned just because they reissued the series with new covers (I had to stop buying Robert B. Parker's Spenser books for that reason).

    Imagine every book you own in a simple book size device. Imagine your next trip not having to find space to pack a few gotta have books but instead carry all your books with you in your purse or pocket. Imagine thousands of books free at just a click. Imagine entire collections of writers such as Earl Derr Biggers (Charlie Chan), L Frank Baum (Wizard of Oz, 15 books), S.S. Van Dine (12 Philo Vance novels), Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan, John Carter, etc) and others all for free or less than one paperback. Imagine discovering once popular now forgotten writers such as Stephen Leacock and Norbert Davis. Imagine your book never going out of print, available to readers forever.

    Why do you read? Is it for the words, the content? Or do you read a book because it looks pretty or smells great?

    There are problems with e-books. My Kindle is terrible for comic strip collections (too small), art or photo books (no color) and children books (no color or interactivity). But the iPad has all us comic geeks excited and the Vook and Penguin publishers are doing some exciting stuff with children and cooking books featuring video interaction.

    The biggest problem I would worry about from a writer's POV is a lack of proofreading in the e-book. Page design is terrible, empty gaps in text, paragraphs can run together and make who is speaking confusing. The worse happened to "Death Was the Other Woman" by Linda L. Richards. My Kindle misplaced pages of text. I would be reading and suddenly I was pages ahead only to discover the missing pages half a chapter away.

    But e-books will get better. Amazon is all ready working on updates for the Kindle that will compete with the iPad. The price will come down just like they did for VCR, computers, and any other gadget.

    One last comment about the $9.99 e-book killing the HC. I have spent $15 for a few e-books. I have always been the customer who waited for the cheap paperback version. So instead of paying 5-8 dollars for a book I am paying more for the e-book. Don't worry about the HC right away, it will be the mass market paperback I am betting that will go first.

  6. I do not own, nor will I EVER own, a frickin' ebook or Kindle reader. I want a physical book in my hands to curl up with and turn the pages manually. That being said, I make sure all my books published are available in both formats - hey you can't fight a trend this huge these days, or you risk losing a large segment of readership and sales, hmm?

    The Old Silly

  7. Thanks for the mention!

    I own eBooks but not a reader. I will probably get one someday, but it won't be a dedicated reader at those prices. Maybe the iPad, which can do so more.

    I guess records and 8-tracks would REALLY confuse your son,huh?

  8. I don't own a Kindle and don't think I ever will. I enjoy the feel of a book when I'm reading. My best friend has a Kindle and loves it, but she still enjoys reading print books too. The Kindle is her choice when traveling, which I can see how that would help. There's pros and cons of owning one.

  9. I don't have an eReader. I'm not sure I'll ever get one, but mostly because of cost. I think they're valuable for people who travel. Both my in-laws have one, and they rave about how much they like them because they don't take up any space and weigh nothing. So I can see that plus.

    I wrote an ebook, but you don't need an eReader to read it. I think those are two different things though...

  10. I own a Kindle, and I love it! A clean, easy to read and function device. It makes reading fun.

    We bought our Pastor the Sony Reader, he loves it. Downloading books is not as easy as the Kindle, but he has no real complaints either.

  11. I used my previous phone (Blackberry Curve) as an E-reader and while it was kind of cool, I still prefer the real thing. I'm a tech-centered-weaned-on-an-electronic-breast kid who has no phobias about the tech world, BUT I'm not going out to spend several hundred dollars to pick one up. I imagine that I'll end up like a coffee mate in the future... half/half. Half my novels will be the real deal and half will be electronic via an e-reader of some kind, but that's only when E-readers are as cheap as generic mp3 players.

  12. I own a kindle and I read paperback books still. I love both. I love having book shelves filled with books I've read and I love having my kindle tucked into my pack so that I have it everytime I go somewhere. Also, it means that no matter what stage in reading the book I am, I always have more then one other book on hand. I think it will be very nice to have when I travel - which although rare, will still be nice.

    I am not a writer though. My big complaint the wait between when the hardcover comes out and when the ebook comes out. I think that those who are going to purchase the hardcover will purchase it regardless of the ebook release date. Instead it has made impulse buyers (like myself) not buy the book because we forget to purchase it or if the book gets poor reviews, we no longer purchase it.

    I also don't find my kindle to be anything like reading from a computer. It is much nicer on the eyes.

  13. I'm sure my upcoming book will be available as an eBook.
    And I can read eBooks on my iTouch, although I've not purchased a dedicated reader yet.

  14. I'm not just afraid from eBooks, but also from the moment when someone will develop a really good electronic translator :(( What shall I do then???

  15. I've only seen 1 e-reader. They're not popular yet here in small city Canada. Once the price drops that will change :) I'll get one eventually - I like new toys - just can't afford one yet.

  16. Kristen- Here's hoping!

    Michael- I truly appreciate your informed opinion. You make some great points here. I think, though, for someone who is so sensory driven, like I am, that the e-book just doesn't hold the appeal. I am definitely interested in the iPad and future renovations of the e-reader. Thanks, again! And welcome!

    Marvin- Amen! And totally. Can't fight it when it comes to sales.

    Diane- Oh, you don't even know the half of it! Just in the difference of 2.7 years between my kids, I got rid of the flip phone and bought the touch-phone. Now that's all SHE knows! Crazy.

  17. Elana- I thought they were the same thing, but I guess not. Confusing to me! My sister would love one for her daily commute on the train in Philly. I see the use of it there and for traveling.

    Tamika- I am glad you have found yours so perfect for your reading style!

    Voidwalker- Ha! I hear you. I don't really have a phobia of tech stuff, just a phobia of letting go of the past too much. Is this the same thing?

    Wonderbunny- Great to know about its ease on the eyes. Many people were worried about that. I think your point about travel is an important one. I would love to have one on long trips to Europe...heck, I'd love to TAKE long trips to Europe!

  18. Alex- I hadn't thought about reading books on other devices until people mentioned it here. I suppose I could buy one and read it on my computer, but it just doesn't appeal. So, is it in your publishing contract that it will be released in e-book form?

    Dez- No joke! Aldous Huxley strikes again!

    Jemi- I like toys, too. But I don't like having to give something up for it. From these comments, I am starting to realize I don't have to give up books, just expand my horizons a bit.

  19. Great post. Those pretty, shiny e-readers are very tempting, but I refuse to buy one. I love the feeling of a book in my hands, a book with actual pages that is. : )

  20. Kimberly- I was with you when I wrote this post, but the comments here have made me think again. I see both sides now!

  21. I bought a Kindle a few months ago because there are some books I have a hard time finding in Australia, and I hated paying the crazy shipping costs to get them mailed here (shipping costs a tiny bit more than the book so you know). Turns out, I love the thing. Who'd have thunk it?
    I got a nice leather cover for it so I can pretend it's a real book and the electronic ink fools me as I'm reading. Plus I bought the entire collections of Mark Twain, Dickens and Poe for about $15 total. I feel so ashamed of myself...

  22. I don't have an e-reader because I prefer to hold a book in my hands. If I were still traveling a lot, I would no doubt succumb to the e-reader temptation. But I love books, I'm a collector. Even if I owned an e-reader, I'd still be scouring used book stores... as long as they're still around, that is.

  23. Burying my head in the sand? Absolutely. The way I feel about e-readers at the moment, is over my dead body. However, I'm not stupid, so obviously they will be 'the' new books sadly.

    Times change and life goes on. However, I do hope to win lotto and buy a library :)

  24. I realize the inevitability of 'e-world,' but I truly hope actual books will be around forever. I spend hours a day editing online, and when it's my time and I want to read, I want to hold a book in my hands. I don't want to hold a little gadget and read from another screen.

    Funny because I prefer online editing over hard-copy editing 100%. I also prefer hard-copy recreational reading over "e-reading" 100%.

  25. I wonder why must we think in terms of ebook or print. There are places that still sell vinyl records. CDs exists. The fact is people buy books for different reasons. As long as people buy both formats of books, publishers will sell both. I am sure future versions of ereaders will attempt to mimic your favorite things about the print version. They will feel and look like a book (see Kindle's covers), and you will turn the page with a finger wipe like your iPhone (and close to how you turn a printed page).

    So relax everyone the ebook is not the enemy but just another way for writers to find readers.

  26. Lorel- Shipping. I hate paying shipping costs!

    VR- Maybe when we're touring to market our books we'll need them, right? ;)

    Michael- Excellent rebuttal. And I think you are exactly right. I am coming around!