Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Don't kill my dream

I've seen many posts recently about electronic publishing, the move to e-books and e-readers, the increasing number of self-publishing success stories, and where is the publishing industry heading?

I responded with a comment on one such post, and that got me thinking more deeply about what I was trying to say.

I class myself firmly in the traditional print camp. I am not tempted to get an e-reader of any description, and I suspect it'll be a long time before I do.

But why?

I like the feel of paper

Often the cry of us techno-Luddites.

And it's true. I do like the feel of a real book in my hands. But that's no reason to despise alternatives. After all, nobody is trying to dematerialise my print collection, so the electronic revolution is hardly a threat to what I already own. And I've never been against change. In fact most of my working life has been as an agent for change. I built my own home computer back in 1979 (before Bill Gates took all the fun out of computer ownership) and I love to try new things.

In this case I get such a strong feeling that I don't even want to try, that I suspect this is just a surface rationalisation.

I need to dig deeper...

I don't trust modern technology

This is more subtle, and more credible.

The pace of change is such that today's must-have toy is tomorrow's museum piece. Why would I want to build a library on such shifting sands? Some of the books on my shelf are many decades old. What will become of the Kindle in forty years time? Will the books I purchase now still be readable? I doubt it.

Related to this is my reluctance to commit slices of my very limited time to learning new technology. My experience with PC bloatware has not been happy, everything is more troublesome than it has any right to be, and I just don't want to invest that time in what is likely to be a dead end.

And yet most of the music I listen to now is on an iPod. I hardly ever get out one of my stack of CDs, and the ephemeral nature of my current collection is not something I worry about.

No, this excuse doesn't quite cut it either.

It is threatening my dream!

Now this is more like it.

When I started writing, just over six years ago, e-books were barely on the horizon. Self publishing was still the poor relation to traditional print, the option of choice for some niche markets, but the choice of last resort for many.

I dreamed of finishing a novel. That, alone, was a significant step. But beyond that was the dream of being taken seriously by someone in the profession, of gaining some measure of acceptance in this big and frightening world, and finally of holding my own book in my own hands and seeing it on the shelves of my local bookstore.

E-publishing is threatening my dream.

If I were to go that route, I would never be able to hold the tangible results in my hands, nor see it on a shelf. If I self-publish, I am giving up on the mark of acceptance that getting an agent or publisher would denote.

I am seeing my dream washed away on the tide of technology. That is why I am so hostile to it.


  1. I used to be like this, but lately I've given in to the tides of changes. By the time I publish my first novel, I'm quite sure ePubs will be around 70% of the market, if not more. I don't mind. I get the feeling a service will be in place for published authors to have limited special releases of their works appear in real print. These will be collectors items they can keep on their own shelves or dole out to deserving fans when the occasion calls for it.

    As far as permanent ownership goes, I have far too many books as is. I think it's high time I start learning that I will never re-read any of these titles ever again. I have a hard enough time as it is finding the time to read new books. I suspect not having a permanent library won't be a big deal, if it in fact this ends up happening. Which I'm not so sure it will, DRMs be damned.

  2. I love the touch of paper as well! It's what makes the book a *book*.

    I will have my e-book copies, but I am also going to have my CreateSpace print copy, so I can keep my book on my bookshelf, feel it in my hands and read it as I've always read the other books.

    I do feel it's a bit cheap, in a way. The traditional publishing way meant it was a truly significant achievement to be published with a book on the shelves. But I'm certain I have a much better chance with the new direction at achieving my dream.

  3. I have an ereader... But I love the feel of paper more so 9.9 times out of 10....I buy the book anyway.

  4. I still have my vinyl records, they look and feel and sound so much better than the modern formats, I just couldn't part with them.

    Unfortunately, I no longer have a record player.

  5. I also posted a blog on this recently, and I hear what you are saying. I too still have that dream of holding my very own paper-and-ink book in my hands and proudly saying “I made this.” But both I and my wife both have e-readers, and she has already almost abandoned her, many, shelves of ‘real’ books in favour of the ‘e’ a worrying trend for me. Although I wasn’t quite sure why!

    I also still have vinal records, tapes, and even laser-disks; anyone remember them?

  6. I'm pro-books too. There's nothing like the feel of having your own formated book in your hand. You read through it as if it's written by someone else. I have your dream. Never give up!

    Dream power! :)

  7. I was pro-paper until I actually read from a kindle. The look of the screen convinced me.

    Every book I have bought so far has been lower cost on the kindle than the print version. Since getting the kindle, I have two books that I also have paper copies of. (Note I didn't say buy. They were given as gifts from critters on CC.)

    Having the e-reader gives me the freedom to decide whether I want to devote space on my (limited) shelves to a book or not. If it is something that I am reading just to read, then I get the e-version. If it is something that is powerful enough (or sentimental reasons) that I want the paper copy, then I am not prevented in any way from getting it. In fact, the paper copies of the e-books I have will stay in better condition, as they are technically unread.

    I have completely embraced the e-book. When my WIP is finished, I plan to shop it around for a year. If I don't get any interest, then CreateSpace will get it. I can order some paper copies to hand out, and market it to death to get some sales.

  8. I'm torn. I love the feel/smell/look of a real book. Always have. Which is evidenced by the boxes upon boxes of books that now sit in my office of our new house. I haven't enough room for them. I need more shelves...

    Oh, but then there are e-books. No shelving needed. I don't have a Kindle yet, but my iPhone has a Kindle app, and it can open .pdf files as well. This makes reading quite handy for me, especially when we're traveling (and hubby's driving). Plus, they're cheaper, instant, and I figure I can read them faster.

    Since I'm a new author, I want to support my fellow authors, and many of them have shorter books/stories that I can't always justify buying a print copy for. So I can read it faster, and post a review of their work faster too.

    Then again, I have an Amazon.com prime membership for a reason. Longer novels , books I read with my girls , and writing reference books--I still want these in print.

    I think your dream is still safe, because I don't think print books are going to disappear anytime too soon.

  9. Wow! Thanks for the comments everyone. It's comforting to know I'm not going mad :)

    Seems like paper is still held in high regard by many. And, as many of you pointed out, I don't think paper is going away any time soon.

    David & Ryan, yes I guess it is always possible to have a special print copy to have something tangible.

    Moody & Gary - LOL - I still have vinyl records too, and nothing to play them on!

    Melissa & Andrew, I've seen others say they end up buying both, too. Andrew, I've heard that about the Kindle, too, from many sources. I guess I'll get around to trying it for myself one day.

    Mysti, yes it is a dilemma, with pros and cons both ways.

    Stephanie, that is another good point about reading it in print as it is someone else's work. I know what you mean.

    I think Ryan's point got to the core of my dilemma, though. Getting into print used to be (and still is) a significant achievement. I think that significance is what I dreamed of. Now, anyone can get published so easily it kinda diminishes what I originally set out to do all those years ago.

  10. It may be that more people can get published more easily, but the goal is still to produce something you're proud of that people will buy, enjoy and refer to their friends to buy. It seems many e-books don't quite make it to those last two because of quality issues.

    Some of the e-publishers will also offer print if your sales are high enough so there is always the hope of getting to print even if you do go the electronic route. When I did my brief stint of querying (currently on hold due to another round of edits) I aimed for those publishers, because, yeah, holding my own book in my hands has always been the end goal. ;)

  11. I hear exactly what you're saying - I resisted ebooks for a long time, too, feeling like I would be missing out on something very important if I were to read books digitally and not on paper. I felt that way about buying an iPod - would I not miss CDs?

    Ultimately, I did buy an iPod (can't live without it), and I don't miss CDs at all. I love having all my music in one handy device that I can keep with me everywhere I go.

    It's not quite the same with books. Part of loving paper books is browsing for them in bookstores, looking at them on my bookshelves, and holding them in my hands, stuff you can't do with ebooks. But I've realized there's a place for ebooks in my life, too. I like my Kindle - it makes traveling a lot easier. So now I buy both forms, and occasionally, if I really love a book, I'll own it in both paper and digital. I think I spend more money on books now than I did before!

  12. Hi Jean, that's a thought. But does that mean you were going direct to publishers? I thought you were querying agents. That is still my planned route for now, but if I rethink the electronic self-pub road I'll certainly bear that in mind.

    I agree, Jennifer. All I ever asked of music is that it produced the right sounds at the right time, the delivery medium is irrelevant, but there is definitely something more with the whole book experience.

    Here's another thought, having seen a couple of posts this week about book signings: how do you go about signing an e-book?

  13. I went for e-publishers last round because several writer friends had had luck and recommended a couple of them. Armed with the feedback I recieved, I might aim for agents the next time around. I kinda feel like I was selling myself short by not trying the agent route first.

  14. The thing about e-publishing these days that attracts people is the reading devices. The Kindle is awesome. Try one!

    Paper is always good though. If one "Indie" publishes they can do both.

  15. I understand, Jean. I'd also worry about selling myself short by not trying agents first. But then, that could lead to a sense of failure if you then revert to e-publishers. It's important to remember that e-publishing is now a viable and respectable route in its own right.

    I think what it comes down to (back to the original theme of the post) is that I'll probably need to bring my dream up to date.

    Hi Cinders, I'm sure I'll get around to it eventually. Please keep us informed of your progress and experience along the "Indie" road.

  16. It seems you hit on a hot topic here! And it's a hot button for me too so I'll chime in even though I've come in a bit late.

    I don't buy into the ebook phenom as a writer or a reader. For one thing, I am with you, I want to hold my published book in my hand... see it on the shelf at a bookstore someday! Even if it's not a bestseller I would rather have it be a real book that was something I could curl up next to.

    As a reader I don't like the distraction the ebook provides. I know I would take advantage of the web surfing tools they offer and I know I would interrupt my reading too much and I firmly believe that is detrimental to my mind just as studies are showing that the GPS has the potential to harm our long term memory by breaking those memory pathways that we use and for those who are prone to senility, the symptoms could be seen earlier (I don't have a link for you right now but if you want one, drop by my blog and I'll dig up the study). Just while writing this comment I have already checked twitter once and double checked my email-- how many times would I do that while reading my book?

    In addition! The ebook devices are too expensive (and let's not even talk about the ongoing expense of books!) for the poorest in our society. Even if the library could offer every book on ebook (and they can't and don't), those people will not be able to buy the devices. And the ones most affected? Poor children. So we are limiting literacy to those with the money to buy an expensive technological device if we allow ebooks to become the new thing replacing real books (and some appear willing for it to be just that!)that people can easily access for a few dollars or check out at their libraries or get free at school. (I actually get most frustrated at authors about this because they are being shortsighted about this subject. They may get published easier because ebooks are cheaper but the fewer people who read, the less people there are to read our books and the fewer readers, then it becomes less and less likely that there will be publishers who are willing to buy our books in any version as there will not be enough people to read them anymore. Perhaps the next new wave of the future will be self-publishing our own ebooks and it will be every writer for him or herself! Yikes!!! Might as stick with blogging!!!)anyway, that's my 2 cents- or ten depending on the cost of inflation.

  17. Hi Danette, yes, this seems to have struck a chord with a lot of folks. I don't want to get too much into guessing the future of publishing. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that more, not fewer, people are buying books now due to the convenience of ebooks. To balance that, there's a question of whether the low cost is leading people more into a "buy and discard" mentality, so they end up not actually reading most of what they buy.

    I hadn't thought about the distraction angle - didn't know those features were part of the deal. Bad idea!

    And that is such a good point about pricing a whole slice of humanity out of the book market altogether. When you think about it, it's even worse than that because there's a huge market for cheap second-hand print books that make them even more accessible. Second-hand book stores, garage sales, street markets...what would happen to that?


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