Monday, August 9, 2010

My Kindle can DO that?

By Steve Weddle

So BQ took a look at ebooks yesterday. And Chris LaTray has been blogging about his Nook.

My brand new Kindle is going back next week (probably) so that I can get the new one, Aug. 27.

Let's throw all of this into the DSD blender and see what some of the ideas here are.

> Having free or cheap ebooks available online means we're swamped with lower quality works. If we don't have publishers and editors and curated bookstores, how will we find quality?

The idea is that if we have a totally open market ungoverned by corporations,our best seller lists will be filled with poorly spelled, horrific, nearly unreadable, low-quality novels instead of books by James Patterson and Glenn Beck, books in which most of the words are spelled correctly.

The counter-argument to this is: "I don't buy books based on best seller lists. I buy books based on recommendations and reviews."
Yeah, but the reviews go to best selling authors. People hear about books because they've heard about the authors. The system (oh, noes. the systems ruins everything. or is that 'society' that ruins it all?)

So what's wrong with having ebooks straight from the authors? Not enough proofreading? The book hasn't gone through corporate gatekeepers?

Look, I've read tons (seriously, I've weighed all the books I've read. Roughly 47,323 pounds of books.) of great books from big, big, large, enormous publishing houses. I haven't read as many great books that I've downloaded for free. But I'm not convinced one thing has much to do with any other. I've read big house books with typos every 10 pages and flawlessly comma-ed first drafts. Whuppy-damn-ding-dong.

Would I be more likely to read a big house book than some free PDF I downloaded from some dude's geocities site?

But I'm reading three free ebooks right now on my Kindle. And they're great.

You see, years ago if someone wanted me to read some pages she'd written, she'd mail me 20 pages. Then if I survived, maybe another 50. I'd mark up and send back.

Then folks could just email me a PDF and I could read it on my laptop, sitting at my desk or in front of the TV, scrolling through pages until my eyes hurt.

Now my fellow writers can email me a file and I can load it on the Kindle and read it just like a "real book" while I sit on my back deck, drinking iced tea and watching the sun go down. I can read a fantastic zombie novel from a future best-selling author in the exact same way I read the latest John Corey novel.
I haven't seen too many people point this out, but it's phenomenal. I don't have to take my pal's PDF file down to Kinko's for a print-out I can carry to the park. I carry the Kindle and it has the file on it, as well as "books." I dunno, this just seems so handy.

Not only that, but I do a good deal of submission reading for NEEDLE magazine. Someone sends in a 3,500 short story for consideration and I take it with me, not printed out on dead trees, but wedged between some books I'm reading. Handy.

Having this Kindle has allowed me to ignore what the book looks like. I don't know what has thirty blurbs on it and what just got emailed to me. I mean, I DO, of course, but it doesn't stick. The Kindle is the great equalizer. I can't just judge a book by its cover. I have to start reading it and see what holds my attention, whether it's a heist story for NEEDLE or the latest from Michael Connelly.

I'm reading a good deal of unpublished material of high quality on my Kindle, so the argument that the removal of barriers to publication will allow people to read more crap doesn't make too much sense to me.

Like I said, Big House Publisher puts out good books. I know, because I've read some good books that have been on the best seller lists. But you know what? When I've been out there listening to folks, looking around, bouncing from idea to idea, I find some pretty cool stuff, stuff that doesn't pop up on the best seller lists.

Does opening the flood gates to ebooks mean that we'll drown in crap? I don't think so. More likely, I'll fill up my Kindle with some stuff I wouldn't have discovered otherwise, some things I'll want to tell everyone about.

Books will get "blurbed" by email and tweets, by Facebook updates and great blog reviews.

Maybe ebooks will help us more from best seller lists to a list of good reads.


Chris said...

How long do you think it will take before the stigma attached to electronic books -- that they are not "really" published if they are not in print form -- will go away? Because it sure seems like there is one, just as there is in music. At least among musicians that I know. I don't know that the average reader/listener really cares. I know I don't feel like I really own something if I only have it electronically, even if I paid for the damn thing. Maybe I'm just old.

Rusty James said...

I'm with you bro.

No matter the argument, no one can refute that more people are reading today than at any other time in our history.

And ebooks have made it easier.

We've all got our own tastes - I for one don't like the Kicking the Hornets nest nor the Playing with Fire one; Never had the inclination to read Harry Potter or Twilight; don't like the Jack Kilborn, or Jack Ketchum horror novels.

But I loves me some - and I'm gonna drop a word here other than 'self-published-author', tell me what you think - Indie Authors that blew me away.

None of whom I remember at present, but if they've got a blog or Facebook page (I don't Facebook), I'm gonna preview they're next book, that's for sure.

The Big Names I go to the library for; the Better Names, I purchase used on Amazon; the Impressive Plots, I buy on impulse while browsing; and the Indies, I preview on Kindle.

But that's just me.

What was the question again?

Naomi Johnson said...

Being able to read all the pdf files without spending a fortune on paper and ink or going blind in front of a backlit screen, that's the major positive I got from my now-defunct Nook. As soon as the thing went kaput, I fell another 30 online stories behind in my reading, and the back list just gets longer every day. I wish the device had allowed for the editing of all pdf files, too. I would have bought another one right away if it had that capability.

Steve Weddle said...

Chris, Whatever stigma there is won't change much. That's just my thinking right now. I know the smart money is probably on the "stigma will decrease the more people etc etc" but I think that the percentage of readers who attach "stigma" to books that aren't "really" published won't change much.
I know many non-writers who are readers and they don't care. I know many writers who are readers and they DO care. I still think that as a writer you get a great deal of positives along the "traditional" path. Small press or big house, either way you get great people to work with if you pay attention. And a dork like me can use all the help he can get.

Mr. Boy, Not being locked in to one way of doing things means having so many more options. Ain't that great?

Naomi, Check this out: Tablet that might take care of your reading/editing needs

Fiona Johnson said...

Interesting comments Steve.

I do think if writing is bad then whether it was on a kindle or in print, I'd put it down..or do you delete it now?

Whether the book is free or if I've paid full price, if it's rubbish I don't read it.

I love 'discovering' a new writer so if this was an 'indie' then I'd be very excited.

If people want to read crap, then they'll read it no matter the format. Mills and Boon still seem to sell well.

Good writing will always shine through and if ereaders gives more people the opportunity to shine then that can't be a bad thing.

Rusty James said...

Mr. Boy is an oxymoron. Can you please just refer to me as Mr. Moto?


Chris said...

I don't worry so much about the "good writing" aspect because most of my choices are via word of mouth. The people whose opinions I listen to are a pretty solid wall against bad stuff.

That said, I've enjoyed a number of books this year where the writing maybe wasn't THAT great, but the story was a lot of fun. I can live with that. There is definitely a bar for that stuff in my mind, but it isn't immovable.

Cunningham said...

Part of what we're doing with Pulp 2.0 ( is creating new editions of out-of-print works so people can discover some cool stuff for themselves. There's a whole generation out there that never experienced the delight at reading an Andre Norton paperback original or books by other authors simply because it wasn't cost effective to keep them in print. That's wrong, and now thanks to digital tech we can remedy that problem.

I became a publisher because there was plenty - literally hundreds - of books/series I wanted to read, but didn't have access to except through a costly ebay seller. So as a publishing/ media company our business plan is simple:


Chris said...

Bill, as you know I loved Brother Blood. As long as you keep putting that stuff out, I'll keep buying it.

Do you have plans to make these books digital as well? Maybe you already have and I'm just ignorant. Then again, part of what I love so much about BB is the "old school" vibe of the physical copy. Many publishers are doing that, which just can't be replicated digitally.

Cunningham said...

We will have digital editions of our books AND we will have 'digital-only' editions - again, part of what I see as our business plan to place pulp entertainment media everywhere.

I understand what you're saying re: print-only, but it's a delicate balance. Pulp by its very nature and history was 'convenient entertainment literature.' if we're to live up to the Pulp 2.0 moniker then that means we will have digital available for the casual reader.

I see this as a win-win, as we want to turn our casual readers into fans. They'll be able to read the basic digi-edition, and if so inclined later buy the collector's print edition with all of the extras. Along the way we'll sprinkle posters, t-shirts and other stuff in there.

John McFetridge said...

So, will the next issue of Needle be available from Kindle and Smashwords?

Steve Weddle said...

McDroll -- Let's hope good writing comes through.

Chris -- Most of the "good writing" that does come through I get the same way -- word of mouth. Cream rises? That how it works?

Mr. Cunningham -- Nice work.

John -- Nope. We want that one to be print-only, at least for the next bit. Plenty of quality crime fiction available online and as PDF/AMZ files.

Naomi Johnson said...

Hm. that tablet DOES look interesting. Thanks for the heads-up, Steve.

Bryon Quertermous said...

Most of the Kindle owners I know are people like yourself who engage in dual reading. They still read a good chunk in paper, but find the Kindle (or whatever e-reader of choice) useful for many additional reading experiences.

pattinase (abbott) said...

As long as print and electronic books are available, I'm cool. But I hate to think of a day when bookstores, libraries, book talks, etc. are gone. Of course, with luck I'll be dead.

Cunningham said...

@pattinase - also we should be discussing something that blends the digital and the print worlds, the Espresso book Machine. No book need ever go out of "print."

Rusty James said...

As long as Indie books aren't printed with those garish white pages you often see.

Good for technical books, but fiction? Not so much.

Did everyone else get that newsletter from Hard Case concerning Dorchester?

Steve Weddle said...

Mr Motorcycle --

Mr Crider had that letter here