Sean the Blogonaut is the pseudonym of a semi-retired teacher and humanist activist. His blog of the same name played a significant role in the closing of Mercy Ministries, an abusive mental health treatment provider, in 2009.
In late 2010, Sean decided to return to his love of reading fiction and now nourishes a fledgling review and book commentary blog at Adventures of a Bookonaut. He aims to review and promote quality Australian speculative fiction.
Shane has asked me to join The Grand Conversation about eBooks from the point of view of a reader and reviewer. So I’ll talk a bit about how eBooks have impacted me in both those spheres and where I would like things to be going.
But first a little history
I am a recent convert; I received my first e-reader in September last year.
I used to be one of those people that said I preferred the touch and smell of paper, and while I do love to be surrounded by books (I have a dedicated library) and enjoy hunting for books in second-hand stores, a quick look at my reading stats shows that 56 % of my reading last year was digital. I expect it to increase to about 80% this year.
The times they are a changing
From the above, you can see that my reading has changed with the advent of eBooks even if it’s just the ‘box’ in which the content is delivered. I have, however, noticed some subtle changes in the types of things I am reading as well.
Having an ereader has allowed me to explore and partake of the wonders of the Gutenberg Project (which I was astounded to find was started before I was born). Gutenberg gives me access to classics I probably wouldn’t buy or can’t get from the local library – I read my first Austen as a result.
I have also begun to read more novellas because they are priced around the $3-5 mark, an easy expense to justify to myself and the Minister for Internal Affairs (i.e. my wife).
I was a serial bookmark loser as well, which often led to my losing interest in a book. Not so with the reader that automatically tracks where I am up to.
The convenience of carrying a hundred books in a device that weighs about the same as a paperback can’t be overstated, nor the flexibility of being able to choose between any number of titles while on the road.
Booksellers will be happy to note that I am also spending more, as a result of consuming books faster.
So in summary, as a reader, I am reading more, buying more, and the majority of it is digital.
I began seriously reviewing late last year and the upsurge in eBooks has impacted my reviewing but not the manner in which I expected.
You would think that with the cost of providing an eBook to a reviewer being lowered (i.e. no physical production costs and no postage) and the speed at which ARCs could be delivered, that large publishing houses would be jumping at the chance to send out eBook ARC’s.
The majority of my early eBook reviews, however, were provided by self publishing authors or small press. The reviews I have conducted for the Australian subsidiaries of “Big Publishing” have been of pBooks delivered to me at significant cost (theirs)– not that I am complaining.
It’s not all rosy, though. The downside of authors being able to negate the editing overlords is that the market is beginning to become flooded by low quality fiction, poorly written, poorly formatted, poorly edited, and sometimes, a combination of all three.
It’s all well and good to say that you can download samples, but there is enough volume without needing to filter out all material that wouldn’t pass muster at high school level.
Poor quality fiction offered up to me by eager writers keen to be the next Joe Konrath was behind my decision to restrict my reviewing this year to Australian Fiction and Speculative Fiction at that. There’s only so much time and I’d prefer to be reading something that’s entertaining and has seen the editing eye of someone who’s not related to the author.
The future foretold
There’s nothing more annoying than someone pontificating about what’s going to happen to the publishing industry in the next five years, so I won’t. As far as I can see, digital books combined with a low cost, user-friendly reader has changed the publishing industry, and for that matter, reading forever. Whether this is for better or worse I don’t know, I’ll paraphrase Stephen King when he says he doesn’t know whether it’s good or bad, it’s happening and there’s not much we can do about it.
I’ll admit that I love the somewhat romantic notion that the oppressed and undiscovered novelist now has a fighting chance of gaining a readership, freed from the tyrannical whims of the ‘Evil Editor’. I am not so sure, however, that shucking off the oppressive publishing overlords doesn’t just land writers with a different, less predictable master: i.e. a free market. Besides, I don’t think we have seen the last of the big publishers just yet.
I’d like to see 3 things come out of this shakeup.
- Authors getting better royalties
- Small presses taking advantage the edge eBooks may offer in competitiveness
- Quality niche fiction finding a sustainable market
Too much to ask? Likely to happen? Who knows?
Sean’s review and book commentary blog can be enjoyed at: Adventures of a Bookonaut
The Grand Conversation on ebooks will run here at www.jiraiya.com.au until February 28. If you’d like to contribute a guest blog post, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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