Feet in the Future, Books in the Past


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image from: http://bit.ly/Q16ckD

Yesterday I spent the better part of the afternoon
completing an interview for an online magazine to help promote me and my
writing. Since they have a technology focus, one of the questions asked how
technology and e-publishing has changed how I write. After checking the mirror
for crow’s feet, I explained that I’m young enough that beyond my elementary
school days of journaling in blue books, technology has always been a part of
my writing. I’m not denying that it has progressed tremendously since the days
of floppy disks, but since it’s always been there in some form or another, its
evolution never fazed me. In some ways the technology has grown up right along
side my generation; as we sophisticated, so did it. 

E-publishing is a different story, though. It’s new, even to
my generation. Reading books that aren’t physical books at all, but digital
files on an electronic device is a change. People don’t like change. When it
comes to politicians, bad habits, or anything else that grates their nerves,
they may say, “It’s time for a change.” What they mean, though, is that it’s
time to fix what we currently have. Younger readers may be more likely to
embrace ebooks, but many readers will tell you that their paper books will have
to be pried from their cold dead hands. This reluctance is understandable and
forgivable. We can choose what books we read. We should also be able to choose
how we read them. Besides, who doesn’t love the smell of a book?

The stigma of e-publishing goes beyond the disdain for
e-readers, though. There is a belief that works only published electronically
are of lesser quality and value. There is some legitimacy to this argument.
With self-publishing as easy as clicking a couple of buttons, there are some
truly horrid ebooks out there. When I see an ebook on Amazon that has spelling
and grammatical errors in the blurb, I cringe, not just out of embarrassment
for the writer, but because it makes all ebook authors look bad. I want to
email them and beg them to do the rest of us a favor by hiring an editor. 

However, just because many authors of ebooks went with an e-publisher or
self-published because they weren’t picked up by a ‘big six’ publisher, doesn’t
necessarily mean that their work is of lower quality or less entertaining. It
might be that the market they wrote for was over-saturated, for instance if
they wrote yet another vampire series. Silly writer. Or it could be that the
book was great, but that the author never managed to nail the query. Trust me,
it’s a very different type of writing. Or maybe they just became impatient and
wanted the control of publishing their own piece. There’s a lot to be said for
the freedom of choosing one’s own cover. The point is, ebooks are just that,
books. Some people will like some ebooks, others won’t, just the way some
people will like some print books, while others won’t. Check out the Amazon
reviews of your favorite book, if there are more than ten, chances are at least
one reviewer hated it. Does that mean it’s a bad book? Does that mean all print
books suck?

My defense of ebooks may sound a bit disingenuous
considering the joy with which I announced earlier this week that my own book, Unforeseen, is going to be released in paperback. In reality, it was that joy that made me
realize they needed defending. As an author of an ebook, I’ve spent the last
four months apologizing to people who didn’t have e-readers and don’t like
reading on the computer, as if it were my fault. Worse, whenever I or someone
else mentioned I had recently published a book, I almost always qualified it by
adding, “It’s only an ebook.” Granted, these were my issues of doubt and lack
of confidence, but they were rooted in the fact that there are still plenty of
people who don’t see writers of ebooks as legitimate authors.

Having my book in paperback will make it more accessible to
readers who’ve yet to embrace the new reading technology. It won’t change the
book. It won’t fix any of its flaws. It won’t alter the style or quality of
writing. It won’t make it any more or less entertaining. Why then will it make
me more of an author in many people’s eyes (my own included, apparently)?
Because of a few bad apples who didn’t bother to spell-check before hitting the
send button on their self-published pieces? Because of the snobbery of some
major publications that don’t include ebooks in their best seller lists (NY
Times didn’t start until last year)? Or is it just because technology has moved
too quickly for the collective mindset to keep up with?

I’m guessing it’s a little of each. The old-school part of
me can’t wait to hold a copy of my book in my hands. The snobby part of me
agrees with the dreamer in me who can’t wait to have a book I’ve written picked
up by one of the ‘big six.’ But the rest of me knows a book is a book, published
is published, and dreams come true in all shapes, sizes, and, these days,
mediums.


Fun facts related to this topic:

  • One in
    ten Americans now own an e-reader.
  • Ebook
    sales outstripped hardcovers earlier this year, but have yet to earn more
    than paperbacks.
  • To clear up
    a reference, the ‘big six’ New York publishers
    are: Hatchette Book Group, Harper
    Collins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon & Schuster.
    Along with their imprints they account for over sixty percent of all books
    sold in the US. Five of them, along with Apple, were investigated for
    price-fixing in the ebook market.
  • Personally,
    I haven’t read a paper book (aside from those I teach, and those only
    because of needing page references) since I bought a Kindle over three
    years ago, yet…
  • I hand
    write my rough drafts, but only of my creative writing. I blog and write
    academic pieces straight to the screen. Can’t really explain why. Just do. 

  • My
    cousin read my book on her phone and informs me it was 6,652 tiny little
    pages. That is determination, dedication, and heart-warming family loyalty
    right there! I’m sure she was thrilled to learn that if she had just waited a while longer she could have saved herself the carpal tunnel in her thumbs.

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2 Comments

Filed under Writing

2 responses to “Feet in the Future, Books in the Past

  1. Maureen Barton

    Hi Lauren.. I just totally love you and your wonderful and brilliant mind. I have a kindle and an I pad and am so very fortunate for the opportunities to have such a wide and affordable selection of books to choose from. While I love the modern technology, I am still ingrained in the “old school”. . The best I can explain it as” How would one equate have a Tamagachi virtual pet vs. a live kitten snuggling in their lap?” The feel and hold and smell of a printed book, for me, could never be replaced.. Very often I start the book on my Kindle and then go to the library and check out the printed copy. I somewhat feel sad that this love of mine of the hand held printed word , might be something that my grandchildren will never understand.. But I am only too ready to embrace the newest and most modern technology..and all the wonders the internet offers us. Hugs to you.. love, Auntie Moe

    Like

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