I’m been ruminating on how many different ways we can consume books these days. There’s classic print, of course, still a favorite for many readers, including me. I like being able to flip through the pages and read in the bathtub without worrying about dropping an e-reader into the water, with expensive consequences.
Heck, I bought my present house because I’d run out of space for bookshelves in my former townhouse. Now I’m running out of space in this place, and I don’t have the energy to move again, so I need to get better at thinning the herd! (Those aren't actually my bookshelves, but you get the idea.)
As a writer, there are the books I have as a reader—tons of fiction in multiple genres, and I hate getting rid of anything I might read again, and who knows what I might want to reread? Plus, there are books written by friends that I cherish. A lot of books. <G>
Then there are the research—or potential research—books that I buy as a writer, and I don’t want to get rid of them, either. Part of it is sheer packrat-itis, but even in the days of the internet, there are times when a book will give you more of the detail a story needs than anything you’ll find online.
Plus, print books last well. Even mass market paperbacks can be readable for decades. There’s no need to worry that the software or the distribution platform will change or fail and you’ll lose all the e-books you’ve bought.
But the space advantages of an e-reader are hard to ignore. Hundreds of books on one little device the size of a single book! E-readers are great for travel because you can get so many books on them. If I’m going on a trip of a week or more, by the time I pack my books and all the electronics I need, there is no room left for clothes, so an e-reader is a blessing.
But they have their downside. Flying home from Rome to Washington, DC several years ago, my Nook ran out of charge halfway across the Atlantic. I can’t really blame the device—I knew it was running rather low, but I hadn’t been able to recharge it before leaving Italy. Luckily, I had a print book on the airplane to read for the rest of the trip.
Another great blessing of e-books is that they make older books that have gone out of print available again. I love reading books I hadn’t been able to find, and I love that my own backlist titles are available for anyone who might be interested.
E-editions also make all kind of play projects avail. Wenches Susan King and Pat Rice and I decided it would be fun to do an e-book anthology of three Christmas novellas that have been unavailable for years. So Christmas Roses will be available in September.
I’m also one of a small group of writers who chat back and forth daily. When we realized that several of us had done cat short stories, someone suggested that it might be nice to do an anthology of pet stories with proceeds to go to charity. The Sound and the Furry is just out in e-book and POD editions, and the picture on the cover is my sweet Fluffster, who made her transition before last Christmas at a fairly advanced age. She was a very photogenic lady.
The anthology is fun and furry <G>, and the dozen authors are from the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia. A nice global spread, so the charity we chose is the IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare. There are no end of the interesting things that can be done with e-publishing!
Print on Demand:
There’s also Print on Demand (POD) which enables people who prefer to read print to buy a print version of a book that is primarily available in e-editions. Each book is printed basically to order--there are no print runs or cartons of the book in a warehouse.
POD books are large paperbacks and the pricing is similar to what conventional trade paperbacks cost. I just released a POD edition of my bestselling e-book,Thunder and Roses. I don’t expect to sell many, and there is much less profit than on an e-book, but that’s okay—I just want my readers to be able to get print if they prefer. We played with the formatting to get the price as affordable as possible while still being readable. (It’s not a large print edition, though.)
And then there’s reading that is actually listening. Everything I’ve mentioned so far is really just formats for reading things with our eyes, but audio is a different game entirely. I know several people, including our Word Wenches whipmistress, Sherrie Holmes, who “read” most of their books in audio form. There are a lot of reasons for doing this, including eye problems and long commutes
It used to be super-cool for an author to have audiobooks made of her stories—it was one of the signs of career growth. Most of my books published in the last sixteen years have audio versions, which has been great. But I’ve also received queries from people who would like audio editions of earlier books.
Well, audio is another area where the walls are being kicked down, and not surprisingly, Amazon is leading the way, as they did with e-books. Their ACX.com (Audio Creation Exchange) subsidiary is basically a platform where anyone can do audio books relatively easily, and then have them distributed to Audible (another Amazon subsidiary), Amazon, and I think iTunes.
It’s a great site to explore, with over 11,000 narrator/producers listed. You can search for narrator by genre, gender, accent, style and price. However, while formatting for POD is not very expensive, audio production is pricey: narrators are highly skilled professionals. Many are trained actors, and even among actors, not everyone has the gift for storytelling and interpreting different voices and characters. Talent commands a good price, and that’s as it should be.
I’m in the process of producing my first indie audiobook, and again I’m choosing Thunder and Roses because of its popularity. Currently I’m looking for a narrator and I’ve received several good auditions. A major factor in choosing a narrator is how well they do voices of both genders.
The legendary Laura Kinsale is now producing audiobooks of her backlist, and she’s found the most amazing narrator, an English actor called Nicholas Boulton. He sounds exactly the way a Regency hero ought to! The best narrators have fans would be happy to listen to them read the phone book. <G>
So—how do you like your books? Are you a hybrid reader, or faithful to one format? What books might you like to see in a different format? And what formats might we see in the future? There's film, but that's so expensive it's not even worth talking about. <G>
Mary Jo, mostly faithful to print, but not above flirting elsewhere
PS: Happy Canada Day to our Canadian readers!