Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Does Delivery Matter?

By Vicki Delany

In your ideal world as a writer, do you foresee a balance of writing hardcopy books and stories and some ‘E’ material or, gasp, will your original work only be available in e-format one day? And does it matter??

Ah, yes. My ideal world as a writer.  Putting aside the six figure plus advance…

I am going to dispute the question.  The question seems to imply that writing for hardcopy and writing for e-books are something different.

I remember being at a conference several years ago, when e-books were in their infancy, and the publisher of a strictly e-book company (since defunct for reasons that will become obvious) said the he was looking for stories with short sentences and simple words to fit the format of the screen

I ran screaming from the room.  I couldn't imagine anything WORSE.

But, as it turned out, serious writers (whether genre or otherwise) have made no move to dumb down writing for the sake of fitting into the e-page.  Books that are good books in a hefty hardcover are still good books on your slim little Kindle or Kobo.

The writer should have no interest in what format the reader will be reading on. 

The medium should NOT be the message.

I suppose you could argue that if you were writing a work to be transcribed by chisel onto a block of stone you might want to cut out some of the more vivid descriptions.  But we will assume that is not the case here.

Unfortunately the online marketplace is now being overwhelmed by people who are cranking out books as fast as they can and uploading them to Amazon and the like, hoping that if they get enough books out there, someone somewhere, will take notice and give them a big publishing contract. Or they’ll sell so many books at $0.99 that they’ll make their fortune.

The argument is made to readers that these books are so cheap if you don’t like it you haven’t lost anything. 

Well, I don’t audition books.  When I buy a book, I intend to read it and enjoy it.  Some are better than others, and sometimes I am disappointed, but I’m more willing to pay, say $10 or more for a book from a respectable publisher (whether one of the big five or a mid-sized or even a new one) than ten vanity-press books at $0.99.

I have a Kindle and a Kobo because I travel a lot. What a gift e-books were when I went last year to South Sudan.  Where there are, literally, no bookstores or libraries. Can you imagine the contents of my suitcase if I had to carry all my reading material in paper format?  No room for clothes.  I have two devices because I have a computer background. I expect failure at any point and plan accordingly.

Yet, I also enjoy books on paper. I particularly value signed books by my friends. And, no form of electronic signing is worth it.  You want to be able to display your cherished book collection in a nice form in your home.

I recently read The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond.  Assuming that the book would have pictures (it did) I bought it in hardcover.

Having said all of that, although I intend to continue writing my books with no eye to how they are being read (and I assume most of you are too), I am concerned about the amount of pure junk that is out there, only because there are online bookstores selling them and e-readers for them to be read on. And, in many cases, because they’re free or .99 or somewhat.  Which is about what the majority of them are worth.

In conclusion, as a writer as well as a reader, I am only interested in books that are written without an eye to how they are going to be read.  

A book that is written to be enjoyed, with time and care taken to ensure it is as good as it can be.


Gary Phillips said...

Well stated, Vicki.

Catriona McPherson said...

I'm such a non-gadget person - no idea if or when I'll ever have an ereader - but I'm not judgemental about other peoples' choices. (Isn't that weird?!) I've got to admit though that I feel a wee tiny bit smug on take-off and landing when ereader users are leafing through the mind-numbing in-flight magazine and I'm turning the pages of e.g. the new Kate Atkinson ARC.

Catriona McPherson said...

people's, I mean. The choices of other individual people, not other nations of people. Mind you, some ebook evangelists and paperbook evangelists do act as if it's a culture war, don't they? (Weirdos.)

Reece said...

I'm with you, Vicki. I know that some readers graze on e-books, downloading lots of cheap titles and sampling till they find one they like. There's nothing wrong with that, but I prefer to carefully pick what I'm going to read next, then I pay full price and I read the thing, hoping that it will live up to my expectations.

Vicki Delany said...

I know about the flight problems. I live in fear that I'll have finished my magazine before they allow us to charge up again.