Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A Burning Issue?




The word 'Kindle' used to mean "to set fire to; to ignite" - but in latter times we have become accustomed to recognising this word as the name of a proprietary electronic reader. (See also 'Nook', etc.)

The battle to mass-share the written word has come a long way from Caxton and his cohorts, with their variable printing presses, but is the current ease with which stories can be shared actually likely to see the demise of physical books?

I touched on this in another post, 'eRevolution? Or just Evolution? - and there were some interesting responses!

An item on BBC Breakfast News this morning (sorry, no link available as yet) discussed the idea that eBooks/readers might have a detrimental effect on the publishing industry, amongst other things. I was struck by the analogy drawn by one of the interviewees to consider the effect electronic publishing had made on the music industry! :-o

As an alternative format, eReaders offer portability (much better slipping one in your bag for your holiday rather than squeezing lots of books in) together with choice, availability and cost; there are many low-priced (or even, free!) stories out there!

On that option of choice - there are gems out there, but sometimes it can be like panning for gold!

The other revolution that ePublishing ushers in is the ease of bypassing the 'traditional' route for authors and avoiding agents and publishers. By their very nature, both of these filter out some of the dross, but as more and more would-be writers react to constant rejection (often without the constructive criticism that would enable them to hone their skills!) by opting to self publish, might the publishing houses also be hastening their own doom by being too picky?

I worked in a library for many years - believe me, there was some utter tosh I had to shelve, yet somehow each of them had caught a publisher's eye and at least made it into print. However, as with everything these days, the decision to offer a publishing contract seems to rely less on the merits of the writer's work and more on marketability!

I've known authors who have (metaphorically) jumped through hoops at the the insistence of editors, to re-write, re-write and re-write yet again - almost to the point where their book is almost unrecognisable from the original draft!

Is it any wonder, then, that many writers see the route to having more control of their 'baby' via self-publishing?

Going back to my opening statement about the definition of 'Kindle', ePublishing certainly seems to have ignited a debate about books and surely that's a good thing? ;-)

When the dust settles, perhaps we will be able to see more clearly how this eRevolution might affect the Smörgåsbord of the literary world - but as someone I know often says '...come the Revolution, or when the oil runs out....' paper-and-ink books will still be here!

20 comments:

  1. Interesting thought on whether the big publishers are the victim or the catalyst. And I agree that while there are many, many sub-par ebooks out there, there are just as many sub-par print books. As readers, we just have to take a chance. As writers I guess we do the same thing.

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    1. Laurita - It's almost on a scale of the chicken and egg scenario! I don't have a kindle but I can see their uses - still prefer to read a 'proper' book if I have the option!

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  2. Very interesting post. I am one of those would be writers that have held my breath waiting for some word on my work. I agree that sometimes I will start to read a book and wonder how the H#?? did it get published! I have not gone the Kindle route...but then I am always late to the game.
    Blessings, Joanne

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    1. Joanne - I, too, have not gone the Kindle route........but tomorrow is another day, so who knows? What does make me smile is the number of fellow writers who once blustered about the evils of self-publishing, but are now constantly in my face on social media 'promoting' their e-wares! I don't blame 'em, just find it funny, is all!
      ;-)

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  3. I have only just begun my kindle-reading phase. It all started with a free book. Have to say I still prefer the print version myself...but my partner has found that reading is more enjoyable and thus reads more. No conclusion - just an observation.

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    1. Stephanie - one man's meat....so the saying goes! I'm glad your partner is benefiting from the kindle experience - anything that promotes reading HAS to be a good thing!

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  4. I love my Kindle. Especially now that my eyesight is so bad (it allows me to blow up the print as big as I like). Also, a friend of mine from far away actually bought me a book and I received the wonderful gift in the wink of an eye. Not living near a bookstore, it's invaluable.

    Unfortunately all the print medias are changing. Newspapers, also, are feeling the pressure of electronic media. I still believe that the best will survive, no matter how it's preented.

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    1. Cathy! I think there's room for both physical books AND the electronic versions and each have their merits. Sadly, it could be cheaper and easier for the 'e' varieties to flourish out of control if there's little resistance!

      I still think Kindles are quite expensive, but if anyone's stuck for an idea for my birthday present...... ;-p

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    2. "preented" Sheesh.
      I meant presented. :0

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  5. One of the things I love about the Kindle (and I didn't expect to enjoy reading electronically for leisure) is the built in dictionary - no more getting out of a snug bed to rummage around for the paper one. I also find it good for the electronic version of physically heavy books.

    I've been following a number of musicians and authors who seem pleased to be out of the clutches of the big industries and who enjoy having control of their art. Sue

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  6. I like that trees are saved through ebooks and I like the price of new books and best sellers. I like that I can make any book large print. What I don't like is wanting to leaf through a book and find a part that I want to read again or quote to a friend. There are bookmarks to save pages you like so I'll have to use them more I guess. I also get free books from my local library on my Sony Reader.

    I don't see why publishers wouldn't make the same amount of money since they save a bundle on paper and book binding.

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  8. Bought my Kindle on a whim, and it only took a couple of days for me to realize it was the best purchase I had made in a very long time.
    Now there is one problem I can speak of, on Amazon it is still far cheaper to buy used books by major authors. Amazon is charging around ten US dollars for the Kindle editions of major authors. Used mass market paperbacks of teh same titles are going for less than a dollar.

    As far for unknown authors, their books run anywhere from five US dollars to some that are actually free. Yes, there are a few bad books that a paper publisher would have never let see the light of day but if you read the reviews its fairly easy to filter them out.

    As for the 30 or so books by unknown authors I have on my Kindle I have found their works very well done. Of course, I tend to gravitate to the more the off-the-wall types.

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  9. "Come the revolution" indeed! :)

    I can see advantages of e-readers, and with my eyedrama the thought of being able to make the font bigger appeals to me.

    But.

    It's just not the same as a made-out-of-paper book. I think, for me, the two will co-exist. But I remember thinking that about videos and DVD's and look how that went, so!

    I agree with the dilemma on publishing vs self-publishing. On the one hand, conventional publishing acts as some sort of "quality control" - in theory! - but they also prevent a lot of fantastic work making it through just because it's not a commercial guaruntee. It seems to be a win-win/lose-lose situation. Except I guess the advantage with self-publishing is that the stuff's out there, and there is a freedom in that. It just makes it all the harder to sort through for the gems. Though I guess that's where reader loyalty and reccommendations come in?

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  10. While I don't own a Kindle or a Nook (and don't intend to usless I absolutely have to), I do plan on trying to get my novel published as an e-book, mostly because it seems to be the wave of the future.

    As for self-pubbing, I've seen a lot of expensive dreck via the print route (including my first attempt at it. my 2nd fared much better), and I've read about some good stuff out there as e-book.

    I think self-pubbing your work as an e-book will be the way to go, if only because the cost is very minimal and you're not at the mercy of someone else, only yourself.

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  11. Good luck with the A to Z Challenge. I look forward to your posts.

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    1. Hi, A/Squid! Hope to catch your blog when the 'fest begins! :-)

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  12. If I had a penny for everytime one have my friends has pointed out to me that I could self publish on Kindle now -- I'd have 68p. It's true and the idea of bypassing a publisher is massively tempting.
    But as I told those people - the thing is I haven't got anything to publish! I haven't written anything.
    I think your point is brilliant - the self publishing just means you can effectively publish your first draft - and even with the most accomplished authors that is just bad idea town. For the likes of us normals it would be utterly crap.
    At least going through some level of listening to publishers and honing those skills gives you something - actually it gives you a lot.#
    If I ever get off my bum and write an actual book I would certainly be tempted to get on and epublish by the time I've not heard from even one publisher -- but maybe stopping yourself taking that easy option would actually be the best thing you could do...

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    1. Thanks for your input, Glen. There are certainly pros and cons for self-publishing - but perhaps the DIY-route means you could be trading control for quality?

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  13. The whole argument would be more comfortable for me if more self-published authors publicized the independent editors they hired, and if we had some independent Maxwell Perkinses floating around. As it is, e-books are a market overrun with trash, inadvertently setting up new gatekeepers all the time. There are negatives to the new equation, but it is the new equation, and we simply have to work with it.

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