The Grand Conversation on ebooks: Tehani Wessely

Tehani Wessely is the founder of FableCroft Publishing, and she has been an integral member of the Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) co-ooperative. Tehani was the editor of ASIM #4, #16, #27, #31 and #37, three Best Of ASIM e-anthologies, co-editor of ASIM #36, the Twelfth Planet Press anthology New Ceres Nights, and other projects. Her first FableCroft children’s fiction anthology was Worlds Next Door. She also writes reviews, non-fiction and interviews for ASif!Magpies, and Fiction Focus. In her spare moments, she works as a Teacher Librarian and enjoys spending time with her husband and three children.

“A First World Issue”

I love ebooks. I think they offer a fantastic opportunity to publishers for distribution in ways we’ve never seen before. They are wonderful for people like me who read huge amounts and simply can’t find space for all the physical books I read each year. They are super handy for travelling, allowing one to carry hundreds of books in one tiny device. But they presently come with lots of problems, too, with worldwide rights being the biggest one for major publishers (it bugs the heck out of me that I can’t buy an ebook from a US ebook retailer for a decent price). Ebooks are not cheap, nor easy, to produce *well*. Anyone can fling together an electronic book, but it takes time and knowledge to produce a quality ebook. Ebooks should not be a bypass from the gatekeeping system of publishing either – editors and publishers play a major role in the production of a quality book. There’s also the problem of format – we’re in that flux stage where the hardware is fighting for supremacy and making the format issue difficult for consumers. No doubt might will win out in this one, but in the meantime, we’re flooded with options. We also need to improve what we actually put in ebooks, and learn to take better advantage of the opportunities offered by digital, rather than just copying the same thing that print books have. What else can we do with them?

But all this is a first world issue. Only people lucky enough to live in places with luxury income, credit cards, electricity, computers, internet access and literacy can be part of the debate about the future of ebooks. This is a small portion of the world’s population. People bemoan or celebrate the print book as being dead, but even when one puts aside the simple aesthetics of the enjoyment of reading a print book, and the physical object as part of the reading process, there are millions of people in the world for whom the print book will be the only book they ever see. There are many countries where basic literacy is the only luxury that counts in this debate, and print books the only type that support that, because electricity and computers are not part of their world. So while we, from our position of privilege, either mourn the loss of print or stomp on the grave of the print book, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that our privilege is showing. Consider the countries of the world where such things will never exist, and realise how few people this debate actually impacts on.

Yes, I love ebooks, but if print is dead, so is literacy in countries where literacy itself, not an ebook reader, is a luxury.

Tehani Wessely’s anthologies, Worlds Next Door and Australis Imaginarum, can be purchased from Fablecroft Publishing (in print) and Smashwords (Worlds Next Door only – all ebook formats).



  1. Jan says:

    And this is what keeps school and public librarians up at night, worrying and worrying, right here in middle America.

    Already I have kids with kindles and nooks and mom’s credit card so that they can buy, rather than borrow, a novel for class. At the same time, I have no real option to do the same for the other 1000 5th and 6th graders at my school. And the publishers are making this harder and harder for libraries to do.

    I loved this line: Only people lucky enough to live in places with luxury income, credit cards, electricity, computers, internet access and literacy can be part of the debate about the future of ebooks.

  2. Tehani says:

    Exactly! We’re very fortunate, and it becomes very easy to forget others are not so fortunate. I wish this was a more visible part of the debate out there on the interwebs, but if we remind enough people, hopefully the message will get through.