Are eBooks Killing the Book Industry?

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I said I would talk about this soon.  I’m just going to warn you that I have no real facts to back what I think, but rather personal observations from watching friends and family.

I’m just going to say right now that I don’t think eBooks are bad for the book industry at all.  While I do see more and more indie authors, I think the standard publishing houses will remain so.  There are enough snobs who are weary of indie authors.  Honestly, I’m wary of indie authors.  There are good and bad ways to do an independent novel, but unfortunately many that you’ll find will have been done the bad way – without an editor, littered with common grammatical and spelling mistakes, and without a properly constructed story.  Part of the publishing house process is the service the editors provide.  They help hone a novel to its best self, and a lot of indie authors do not take the time or invest the money to hire a real editor.  If a friend recommends an indie or someone asks me to review one, I’ll give it a shot.  After all, I liked My Memories of a Future Life.  But still I am wary, and many others like me will be wary, too.  This alone will keep the regular publishing houses thriving.

Amazon announced their Kindle Fire last month, and with that presentation showed a very interesting chart.  Sales of physical books are steadily increasing.  In a down economy.

Amazon Book Sales
Amazon's chart shows sales of physical books growing

Amazon is the largest world retailer for books and for eBooks as well, so if they’re still growing, then there’s not much to worry about.  Amazon is online, and the closing of Borders shows that physical book stores are struggling, but physical books themselves are not.  I mean, if Amazon can grow in this economy and with the Kindle to hand on the same website, that’s a pretty good indication of people’s reading practices.

I honestly think that eBooks bring more people to reading.  It’s so easy now to read when you have a few spare minutes.  You don’t even need something like the Kindle.  You just need an app on your iPhone or Android phone, and can read when you’re doing all of the waiting our society dictates (doctor’s appointments, public transportation commutes, and everything in between our busy lives).  Personally, I will always have books that I will want to own a physical copy of.  There is something about owning books that is important to me.  I also like the turning of the page, the smell, the feel of the heft of words in my hand.  But eBooks are great for those books you wouldn’t have purchased because of the space they would occupy.  And, like I said before, for those books you are slightly ashamed you own and read.

So many different ways to read mean more and more people are going to be reading.  I’m not worried, because honestly, readers are still interested in quality.  That’s why there are so many readers for blogs like mine.  People want to find that great read, that book that makes them think and feel and experience another life.  We’ll continue to look for it, and publishing houses will continue to provide it.  I’m not saying that every book that’s gone through a traditional publishing house is guaranteed to be good (*cough*Twilight*cough*), but your chances are higher.  People have faith in the system and we will continue to put our faith in it as long as it churns out good books.  Until that stops happening, the book industry will be just fine.


A Few Musings . . . .

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  • Did you know that with a full-time, regular hours job that it is hard to read a whole lot of books?  Don’t get me wrong, I actually really like my job, I like being challenged and I like stretching my talents.  But if someone were to come up to me and offer me enough to live on to read and critique books all day, I would be a very happy camper.
  • A lot of people are talking about eBooks and whether or not they are “killing” the publishing industry.  I feel my Twitter feed is usually crammed with this debate, blog post after blog post.  I have to say, I’m not really sure what I think.  I’m a traditionalist, I will always want to own hard copies of books, but I love the portability of eBooks.  It is also easier to hide those “guilty pleasure” books you’re ashamed you’ve read but still enjoy if you can hide them on your Kindle, instead of a book shelf for all to see.  (That was a clumsy sentence, but I am too tired to figure out how to fix it.  Fake gold star if you can do better in the comments!)  I will ruminate on the eBook vs. hard copy and probably post about it here soon.  The post will contain no statistical analysis, as I am allergic to numbers.
  • I like “Castle” and it always improves my Monday nights.  I would also like to follow cops around, but feel no desire to examine the dead bodies.
  • I would also like to get back into academic writing.  As I type this, I realize that I have weird hobbies.
  • The National Book Award nominees were announced last week.  If you are a book nerd, you’ve heard about the Shine debacle.  I have not read Shine, or any books by its author Lauren Myracle.  The short version is the judges and NBA press officials had a phone miscommunication.  The judges said Chime (by Franny Billingsley) but the press officials heard Shine.  Why there wasn’t an emailed, faxed, and typed version of the list sent to the press officials is completely unknown and was a stupid mistake to make.  Shine was announced as a nominee, then Chime was added as a sixth nominee (in the Young Person’s Literature category), and then Myracle was asked to withdraw Shine from the competition.  How completely rude, misguided, hurtful, insulting, and childish on the part of the judges.  Author Libba Bray sounds off(warning: contains strong language)
  • NaNoWriMo is approaching.  I am undecided whether or not I will be trying to read and write 50,000 words during November and spending Thanksgiving with the Scottish fiance.  Obviously, Scottish fiance comes first (though both Crossed and The Impossible Dead come out during November . . . .).
  • Speaking of The Impossible Dead, I am highly annoyed that I have to wait a month to read it when the UK can already get their hands on a copy.  I am unsure whether or not if I purchased a Kindle edition via if they would deliver said book to my Kindle in the US.  I am tempted to try, but it would be a waste of pounds if it did not go through.  The other possibility is have the Scottish fiance bring a copy with him when he visits next month, at which point I would get the book a few days early at least.  I also prefer UK editions of UK books, simply because the Britishisms and Scottishisms are not edited out.  This American at least can understand them.

    Slains Castle
    A side view of Slains Castle
  • Halloween is coming, so I am planning on reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time.  This is also inspired by my visiting Slains Castle in Aberdeen last year.  This was supposedly the location that inspired the work.

My Memories of a Future Life – Roz Morris

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My Memories of a Future LifeMy Memories of a Future Life follows Carol Lear, a once concert pianist who has to deal with losing her gift.  Plagued by mysterious pains in her hands and arms, Carol has to look at life without the one thing that had always defined it – performing.  When she goes with her roommate to a public hypnotherapy session, she is skeptical of the theory of past lives.  But when Carol agrees to a session of her own with a former school acquaintance named Gene, her timeline jumps forwards instead of backwards.  Carol begins to wonder if what she experiences is real or not, and she also has to fight to understand Gene, as he only seems to want to treat her and never talk.

This particular novel was originally serialized on Kindle and then later published as a whole.  I think it works well in four parts, if only because the first part helps to ground you in the story.  The other three parts delve progressively deeper into this world that Carol has discovered, and not everything she finds appeals to her.  It would be easy to see this novel as only focused on the identity crisis Carol suffers when she is confronted with not touching a piano for months, if ever again.  And in a lot of ways, the novel is exactly about that, but with a unique twist.  Her skepticism of the legitimacy of her “future life” is woven throughout the novel.  And even though her roommate’s experience guided her to Gene’s treatment in the first place, she doesn’t believe it.  We are never really sure if Carol believes that Andreq (her future incarnation) and his world are actually real or imaginary, but she treasures the experiences nonetheless.

I found the novel engrossing.  I approached it skeptically, much like Carol, simply because the idea of past lives is a subject that I personally don’t believe in.  I liked that Carol never really dove into it, not really, because she could not understand it.  When approached by some interesting spiritualists, Carol refuses to discuss her experiences with them.  I felt it was partially because she didn’t really believe what she experienced, not really, and partially because she was not willing to share it with anyone else.  Getting to know Andreq also meant she got to know Gene even better, and I think it was his trust and relationship that she never really wanted to betray.

For the most part, My Memories of a Future Life was well-written and interesting.  I wanted to keep reading, to see what would happen in Carol’s life and in her hypnotherapy sessions.  I wanted her to break down the walls around Gene, I wanted him to open up and act real.  What drove this novel for me was definitely the interaction between Carol and Gene, but also her adjustment to a new way of life without the instrument she loved.  As someone whose life had revolved around music for years, I identified with her loss and her struggle to move on without the daily interaction of an instrument.  The novel resonates on so many levels.

I did feel, however, that Carol’s first session with Gene was jarring, but perhaps Morris wanted it to jar with the reader because it definitely surprised Carol.  My other minor gripe was the ending.  I suppose I wanted a bit more closure to the story, and the gale that came and swept away Carol and her problems was a bit heavy-handed to me.  It felt bizarre.  Of course, here again it is easy to see that the wave was meant to wash away Carol’s past in order to let her begin her life again.  I’m not sure how you would improve the ending, but I know that it left me slightly unsatisfied (I do prefer things a bit more tidy, I guess).  But even with its flaws, the novel reels you in and delivers a very satisfactory read.

All in all, My Memories of a Future Life was an intriguing piece of fiction.  I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by Roz Morris, whose style flows effortlessly and beautifully across the page.

Rating: 7/10
Format: Kindle

Kindle, how I love you!

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When Amazon first announced the Kindle, I think I blanched.  After all, how could you replace the physical copy of a book?  It’s just so unromantic, too modern.  And yet, the idea grew on me.  I could carry hundreds of books in my purse, you say?  I could have my entire library with me, search the books, highlight things and search for those highlights?  As a student of literature, it was a very intriguing idea.

And then my amazing fiance got me one for my birthday.

I had no idea just how awesome it was.

Now granted, nothing can replace my library.  After all, I still love to read a physical copy of a book.  I also like to own the physical copies, because that small bit of pride likes it that people can see which books I own.  Since I was a kid, I’ve wanted the library that Beast gives Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  But until I can afford the mansion with the large library, I have to settle for a few overflowing shelves tucked in the corner of my bedroom.

And yet, now I can carry Belle’s massive library with me at all times.  The Kindle is lightweight, so it doesn’t add much to the normal clutter I carry in my purse.  It is also roughly the size of a normal paperback, but much skinner.  I keep mine in a protective case, just so my screen doesn’t get scratched by whatever could be lurking in my bags.  The other benefit is how long the power lasts.  I opened my Kindle on my birthday, at the end of June.  I did not have to charge it until the end of July.  And even though it’s had heavier usage in the last month, I only charged it for the third time a week ago.  So basically, the battery lasts 3-4 weeks, and that was with my WiFi on the entire time.  Pretty darn amazing.

Some people would say I should have just gone for a tablet, like Barnes and Noble’s Nook or all out for something like the iPad.  One, I just wanted to read books.  Because the Kindle is devoted to that function, it was perfect for me.  Two, if I went for the Nook or an iPad I would be charging it every other day, they are heavier, larger, and clunkier to carry.  Plus, with the Nook I would have to purchase from B&N, who are going to be more expensive and won’t have the same buying power as Amazon.  While the iPad does have a Kindle app (as does my android phone, so I can put books on there if I want), the glare would also start to kill your eyes.

The electronic ink of the Kindle is perhaps its best and worst feature.  Best because its no more painful or strains your eyes than a regular book would.  Worst because it does not have a back light, so you need some kind of book light to read in the dark.  While I of course own a few book lights, I do wish the Kindle would come out with an optional back light.  That way, you could turn it on only when you needed it.  Sure, it would run down your battery, but at least you would have the ability to read better on a plane or just in your room.  So Amazon, if you ever read this blog (here’s hoping!), optional back light function on the Kindle.  Default function to off.  Get inventing!

As far as the actual reading of the books goes, the Kindle is amazing.  I have never been one for reading multiple books at a time, but it is pretty easy to do just that on the device.  For instance, I can have a fun, beach-type read that I can pick up from time to time and flip back to the books I read for review here.  It saves where you are in the book, so you never have to navigate back, and it also saves you from using bookmarks (I always seem to lose mine, including one I got from the Sherlock Holmes house last year, and I am still gutted about that.  Of course, it is probably in one of my books, I just have to figure out which one.  Amusing. I should get Sherlock to find it.).  While I do miss holding a book and seeing the number of pages decrease in my right hand, Kindle does give you the percentage read.  It is better than having some arbitrary page number (Nook readers tell me this is what it does), because you’ll have no idea how many pages are in the book itself.

Enough about my love of the Kindle.  Well, just a bit more.  Some people, like myself, were afraid that the EReader would kill the publishing industry.  I think it’s actually thriving because of it.  Books can be offered at a lower cost to the publisher, giving them a higher profit.  And frankly, more people are reading.  Think about all those dead times you have – waiting in a doctor’s office, waiting in line at the DMV, or your morning commute (NOT if you’re driving, I mean public transport here).  You have the ability now to carry more than one reading option with you, on something small enough that it doesn’t become cumbersome to carry.  Now you can fill those dead hours with reading the new Ian Rankin, Neil Gaiman, or Denise Mina books.  Now that reading is easier and more convenient in this fast-paced world, more of us are making time to do it.  Even as an avid reader, I do find myself reading more often because of my Kindle.

Amazon win.

(You can also get magazine subscriptions, newspapers, and other more informative things on the Kindle.  I just go for the books, though.)