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Thursday, 23 January 2014

My e-book initiation

Compared to many, I joined the e-book revolution rather late. I have a private library of over 4,000 printed books – many thousands more were consigned to charity shops when we moved to Spain. I like to see them on the shelves. And, let’s be honest, the majority of titles aren’t on the bookshop shelves more than a couple of months, so you need to buy when you find them. I know that this attitude has been negated somewhat by the remarkable availability of books on the Internet. Yet I still like browsing bookshops of all kinds, hoping to find that nugget I’ve been seeking for years, or coming across a useful reference tome.
About a quarter of my home library

I started with a Kindle for PC on my desktop and soon realised I needed the real thing for its portability. Serendipity knocked and as I stepped down as Chairman of the Writers’ Circle, the members kindly clubbed together to buy me a Kindle.

As the Editor in Chief of Solstice (2011-2013), I found this Kindle invaluable. I converted submitted MSS to PDF and loaded them on my Kindle and read the submissions away from the computer and email interruptions.

Of course there’s nothing like holding your own printed book in your hands. That’s a special feeling. Any of my e-books that haven’t been printed yet, I create and print a DVD cover and insert it into an empty DVD case; this is then stowed on my bookshelf, physical evidence of my book’s existence. When the book is printed, I remove the DVD case from the shelf.

The first time I ordered an e-book through my Kindle, I was impressed. What I like is that any e-book I order from (all non-UK orders have to go through .com and not, once I’ve read it I can remove it from my device and it resides in the Archive at Amazon. I can call it back to my Kindle at any time.

I’m not impressed with the fact that 99c books bought through Amazon end up costing a lot more – about $3.40 due to taxes; though the read is usually still a bargain.

And, unlike most print publishers, e-book publishers will accept novellas and even single short stories. In the old days, action and adventure stories had a market in men’s and weekly magazines, but that’s long since been closed. Indeed, several popular male writers of the sixties and seventies started with magazine stories. Now, e-publishers may provide an outlet for that material. As long as the standards don’t slip.

And that’s the downside of e-books - the proliferation of self-published books. There’s nothing wrong with getting a book self-published, so long as it has been properly edited. Sadly, many e-publishers pay scant attention to editing. I know, even mainstream publishers are guilty of howlers these days. A Clive Cussler co-authored book mentions the Royal Army, presumably assuming that since there’s a Royal Navy and a Royal Air Force, it must be right! And that was in hardback, not e-book. Danielle Steel’s The Ring has at least 35 typos, after which I stopped counting. So sloppy editing isn’t just the province of e-book publishers. Granted, some things always tend to slip through, no matter how many edit passes you make. I’ve invented the editor’s curse: readers spot the things you missed, but don’t notice all that you do because it’s invisible.
As the saying goes, everybody has a book in them – but for the majority that’s where it should stay. The e-book revolution has made it too easy for dross to get published. It was bad enough with the countless vanity publishers whose editing was generally abysmal, but now it’s worse. I’ve reviewed a few vanity/assisted published books in my time and to be fair I believe that both Matador and, in particular, Pen do serve their clients well.
Because an e-book can be produced relatively fast – as compared to the mainstream lead-time of eighteen months – there’s a tendency to rush the work out. This undue haste should be mitigated with quality control constraints.

Not surprisingly, one type of e-book has undergone a remarkable surge in popularity – the erotic novel. Where somebody might have baulked at reading an erotic paperback in public, they have no inhibition about reading one on an electronic device. Brown wrapping paper has probably seen a drop in sales.
And in this information age it’s quite likely that people who wouldn’t dream of reading a print book – I read a book once, why read another one? – might be drawn to e-books because they’re onscreen and digital. In the old days, you had your purchasers of hardbacks and of paperbacks, often separate individuals; now you can add to the mix purchasers of e-books.
Of course, e-books don’t suffer from broken spines, spilt liquid stains, page discolouration and mould. They remain pristine. There’s another plus: no shelves to dust.

E-books are not demons or replacements for books. They’re another outlet for creative writing. As before, the reader needs to beware that not all books will live up to their promise on the blurb.
Where once I didn’t see the relevance of e-books, now I can accept them as yet another method of reaching readers.
My e-books are:
Blood of the Dragon Trees (Crooked Cat Publishing)
Spanish Eye (Crooked Cat Publishing)
Write a western in 30 Days (John Hunt Publishing)
Bullets for a Ballot (BTAP Publishing)
Death is Another Life (Solstice Publishing)
When the Flowers are in Bloom (Solstice Publishing)



Jack Owen said...

Very useful and informative. As a newbie to an actual KINDLE and NOT particularly gadget or computer competent; and not an adherent to 'Read instructions before starting Engine', I was NOT aware of its upload PDF option. Will check it out. Also, the mega-tax issue was not a blip on my radar screen. Its a handy tool, for researching NON-Fiction, with its search/find option. BUT - without being rude - where do I stick my Post-It tabs when I want to note it for future reference ;^D

Nik said...

Thanks, Jack. If you click on the Home button, you're offered 'Add a Bookmark' and what I find useful 'Add a Note or Highlight' For the latter, click on that then highlight the text and click it off. Sort of like a post-it. The notes are put into a file called 'My Clippings'. Does that help?

Jack Owen said...

Ahhh...said the blind man...Tnx!