Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Case for e-Publishing

I wrote yesterday about my love of books, bookstores, and the tactile experience of reading.  The theme was concern with what electronic media is doing to books and bookstores, but there're two sides to every story.   This isn't a fairytale where electronic publishing is the villain, locking books away in the tower.  This is war, an epic battle traditional print media and new and upcoming authors.  Unfortunately, the battle between authors and publishing big-wigs is laying to waste books, bookstores, and publishing houses at every turn -- HarperStudios, a HarperCollins Imprint, is closing its doors this summer.  The saddest part is, if traditional publishers could just let go their outdated superiority and lend a helping hand to new authors, if they could open themselves up to authorial success, rather than rejecting them out of turn, the casualties could be reduced.

Honestly, I don't object entirely to electronic media.   I only feel a sadness at the perceived loss of something I love, print books.  The fact of the matter is, e-publishing is making it easier for new voices in the industry to bring their work to wider audiences, without running the mind-boggling, hair pulling, gauntlet of disappointment that comes with trying to navigate traditional print publishers who, set in their ways, often reject new voices out of hand.  Does this mean I want to lose books?  Absolutely not, but e-publishing is making short stories and poetry collections more accessible to wider audiences at reasonable prices, something I can absolutely get behind.  It's allowing new authors to take control of their careers, to sell and promote their own work, and to rise (or fall) by their own efforts.  Who wouldn't support that?

My friend, Jennifer Hudock of The Inner Bean, published a great article on traditional print media and e-publishing that you have to read.  As someone who's out there, trying to sell her work (which is excellent by the way), she's found her way to e-publishing for e-readers through both Amazon and Smashwords.  So, hop over take a peek at her perspective and while you're there, check out her work.  And when you're done, see if you don't agree that sometimes we have to put aside our fear of losing something we love, like I'm trying to do with print books, and embrace something new.  Sometimes, e-publishing is, in fact, a good thing!

Friday, April 2, 2010

How Do You Buy Books?

While in Waco recently, my husband and I managed to make time to go to Barnes and Noble.  You see, we live in a small town, where we have no real bookstores to speak of, so going to Barnes and Noble is a novelty we don't often indulge.  I spent time weaving up and down the long aisles of books, looking for historical fiction when I realized, of a sudden, that there was no historical fiction section.  If I was going to find a book, I was going to have to search through hundreds of books in the "Fiction" section.  What a pain!  Yet, I found the experience exhilirating!

As I searched down the aisles, caressing the spines of every book on the third shelf up from the floor, I found something great!  I found The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox, a historical fiction, and when I pulled it from the shelf I felt as though I'd found a buried treasure.  I read the back cover, showed it to my husband, who was at this point following me around like a puppy, and when we agreed that it sounded like something I'd be interested in reading, I went back to searching around.  Unfortunately, by that time it was time to go.  We had plans with friends, plans for which we were already late because I was taking too long.  I did manage to squeeze in a little extra time, he didn't give me too much trouble as I searched around in the bargain books section for anything that might strike my fancy -- I did fine one, The Gemstone Handbook, which I now wish I'd gotten as I feel like it could be a fantastic resource.

Anyway, as we were walking out the door, I found the book I'd been looking for sitting on a table with other new releases.  When I pointed it out to my husband, he offered to get it for me, but I rejected it in a huff of annoyance that he was dragging me out of my beloved Barnes and Noble.  Next time, I'm going to try to get to Books A Million.  But, being in a bookstore at all, rather than just Hastings, which is all we have here, has gotten me to thinking about how we as a society buy books.  Given that we do live in a small town, I buy a lot of books online, usually from Amazon.  I research books by their ratings and on GoodReads and see what others thing before I put out the $15 for a new book, but this isn't how it's always been.  What happened to the days when we just went to Barnes and Noble and picked up books off the shelf?  What happened to picking the books we buy by what sounds interesting and giving it an honest shot, regardless of what other people think?

We're losing the tactile experience of literature.  Slowly, we're losing the physicality related with books, the sensual experience of satin pages beneath our fingers, the inviting scent of a new book, the crispness of a spine that resists giving beneath the grasp of an exuberant reader.  I love everything about books, and yet it's all being lost.  The e-book is replacing actual books, e-readers are replacing bookshelves, and online book clearinghouses, like Amazon, are slowly draining the life out of brick and mortar bookstores.  And we can argue that e-books are better for the environment, or that they're more convenient, but they're stealing away the experience of the book and it makes me a little sad.  There are future generations, people 100 years from now, who may only be able to find books in used bookstores and antique shops.

Still, for people in rural areas, websites like Amazon make literature accessible and for that I can't complain, especially since I'm one of those people a lot of the time.   Just today I had to make myself go into town to Hastings to look for a book I've been wanting, rather than ordering it on Amazon, which was my first inclination.  For now, people continue to buy books, despite such inventions as the Kindle and the Nook (which I checked out at Barnes and Noble and was not impressed with) and it seems that book lovers and academics are winning out, despite ridiculous claims that books are an outdated technology.

So tell me, how do you buy your books?