I’m kind of curmudgeonly about e-books. I like the smell of ink on paper. I like the tactile feel of a book in my hands. I want to see my name printed on a book cover, with a real jacket and a spine that creases. You know the spiel.
But e-books are here. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with them. They’re a legitimate form of publishing. Because they are less expensive to produce they will open doors to more authors.
So: Meh. I’m in a sea of wishy-washy where e-books are concerned.
Do I think they’ll continue to snag a growing share of the market? Absolutely. There’s a younger generation of readers who don’t think reading a 350-page novel on a 3×5-inch iPhone screen will make them go blind. (Just you wait, kiddies.) For the rest of us, there’s the iPad. Do e-books excite me as an author? Not a lot, but then again I only began writing fiction two years ago so I haven’t gotten jaded yet. And I think there’s too much flux in the market right now to really know where things will end up. How well the e-book market grows will determine how excited I’ll get about it as an author. I think in two years I could get really excited about it, the way things are growing. But we’ll see.
In my sea of wishy-washy float random thoughts:
* I’m a music junkie who loved my big collection of LPs. I don’t have them anymore. I don’t even have CDs. At last count I had almost 3,000 digital songs on my iPod. Has digital music killed the music industry? Of course not. And e-books won’t kill off traditional publishing. People have a tactile love of books they never had with music, plus digital music is more durable and of superior quality than other delivery methods and I’m not sure that’s true of e-books. Apples and oranges.
* The piracy issue has to be addressed somehow. Music piracy is a huge issue too, of course, but recording artists have metrics of success other than album sales. Midlist authors simply can’t afford their books passed around e-mail lists and Internet sites and sold illegally on eBay or they’ll never get new contracts. I recently came across a woman who’s making a living selling pdf versions of books on eBay. They shut her down, she reinvents herself, registers under a new name, and just keeps selling. A couple of months ago she was offering a complete set of Laurell K Hamilton books (about 30 novels) for $10. Maybe LKH can afford to lose those sales, but I can’t.
* I love gadgets and I’m all about instant gratification, so I’m tempted by Kindles and iPads and Nooks and such. (Especially the iPad; I’m getting twitchy over the iPad.) But right now the hardware is too proprietary. I don’t want a bunch of books I’ve bought for my Kindle or iPad suddenly being worthless in five years because whatever new reader I’ve bought can’t “read” them anymore. It’s like all my print books suddenly being transformed into Arabic. Unreadable, in other words.
A recent essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education said e-readers are for people who read fast and then toss or give away their books. They’re not for people who want to build a library, to compare passages, to highlight or dogear, or to re-read ten years down the road. Don’t know if I’d go that far, but I’d like to see the pissing match between e-reader manufacturers get resolved before I invest in the market.
I’m sure there are other issues, but right now, for me and e-books? Meh.
Have you taken the plunge yet?