Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The e-book has changed everything

By R.J. Harlick

How do you pick what book/s you’re going to read? Is it the cover? Awards it’s won. The author. Genre? Word of mouth? Reviews (pro and customer)? Someone you know? Anything else?

This has proven to be an interesting question. At first glance I thought it would be easy, but as I started to go over how I select books, I realized my approach had changed over time because of e-books. Yes, I have become primarily an e-book reader. These days I rarely pick up a printed book, unless it is one by a friend.

Gone are the days when I used to spend many an enjoyable hour browsing through the shelves of a bookstore. Sorry booksellers. Since I was a ‘pantser’, still am for that matter, I was never organized enough to have lists of authors or books I wanted to read. So I would rely on the cover. A good cover would help me narrow down the selection. I am one of those people that forget the names of authors. Yes, I know I am one. While I will remember the title and what the book is about, my mind's a blank when it comes to the author’s name. So I rarely searched the shelves for actual authors. Instead I would look for interesting covers. If the blurb on the back sparked my interest, I would leaf through the book to get a sense of the writing. Sometimes awards mattered. The price was also a consideration. If I thought it too pricey, back on the shelf it would go. But if it were deeply discounted I might be inclined to buy it, even though I wasn’t entirely certain it was for me.

Then e-books came along and my selection process totally changed. Covers no longer matter, primarily because I don’t browse anymore. It’s too difficult. Besides once I’ve opened up an e-book, I never look at the cover again. And since most e-readers are black and white, a colourful cover is immaterial.  Today, when I buy e-books, I go in search of a specific author and/or a title, either someone whose previous books I have enjoyed or books that have been recommended to me by friends. I rarely rely only on reviews, but if I do, it would be a review by an established, well respected reviewer.

Awards and award nominations can also influence my choice. But I find that a book that has won an award, possibly several, creates a very high expectation in me. I expect it to be fabulous and when it turns out to be only marginally better than good, I feel let down. And I hate to say it, but it can be the kiss of death for that author. Rarely do I try another one by that person, which is too bad, because I am sure I could be missing out on some good reads.

I also tend to avoid best sellers, likely because I tend to be a bit of a rebel and like to go against the stream. I am probably the only person in the world who has never read Dan Brown's Da Vince Code.

I hate to say it, but often what influences me the most today is price. These online e-book sellers are smart. Several times a week they send me emails about the latest deals on authors I have read or who write books similar to the ones in my library. I will check out the book's description, might even do some Internet searching to find out more about the book. And if I like what I read will buy it. I can’t resist a good deal, even though I know the author will get almost next to nothing in royalties.

I recently started reading Laura Lippman because of a good deal. I’d avoided her primarily because of her best seller status, but when I got the email from Kobo with deep discounts for her early Tess Monaghan books, I said why not. Much to my amazement I find myself quite enjoying them. I initially bought two, then bought two more. But I’m afraid, they are no longer being discounted and since I am one of those people that hates to pay almost as much for an e-book as a printed book, I will have to wait for the next time they are discounted.  

Unfortunately, I am finding that I am reading fewer authors today. Once I find an author I like, I tend to stick with them until I’ve read most of their books, particularly those in a series. When I used to browse in a bookstore, I was more willing to chance on completely unknown authors and would often be pleasantly surprised. I’m afraid the two e-books by unknown authors that I bought through browsing were so bad, I couldn’t finish them. I haven’t dared try it again.

What about you? What prompts you to read a book? Have you found that you select e-books differently from books in a bookstore?

Tonight is a big night for me. I’m officially launching Purple Palette for Murder. If you live in the Ottawa area, you are very welcome to join the celebration. We are going to have a grand time. This eighth Meg Harris mystery is doing very well, review-wise. You can check some of them out on Goodreads.


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Nicely put, Robin. Best of luck with Purple Palette for Murder.

Susan C Shea said...

Honest, realistic, understandable but sad, Robin. I have a Kindle, and I occasionally stock it with a handful of books that I might read while traveling. Bt I feel cheated when I read and love a book I got that way. I want to see the spine on my shelf to remind me of the story and the pleasure it gave me, and to be able to scan that shelf for ideas when someone asks me for a few recommendations. On Kindle, the memories go to die. I recently got Catriona's House.Tree.Person. that way so I could read it on the way to and from Toronto. I loved it! But there it sits in digital fogginess....