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Saturday, 21 August 2010

What is it about these eBooks? - Guest Post - Matthew Mayo

Amazon have scored huge successes with The Kindle
This weekend  The Archive will be trying to offer both sides of the coin regarding the eBook revolution and we'll have several guests posts looking at the format. Whilst it is all too easy to get excited about the new medium and find yourself dragged along in the excitement (and the Archive is most definitely guilty of this) there are some very real issues surrounding this new technology that I haven't covered on the Archive.

Until now.....

And so with the first of our guests posts we hand the reins of the Archive over to western author, Matthew P Mayo:

Okay, I just sniffed a May, 1963 first Dell printing of Pay-Off in Blood: A New Mike Shayne Mystery. I'm ready.... 

Most folks will agree that e-books are here to stay. But any time new technology threatens to "revolutionize" an industry, the Internet and all manner of media outlets bubble with cheerleading about it, mostly because it's new and shiny. I like a bit of excitement as much as the next fella, but without balance, the ra-ra-ra-ing becomes annoying and of little practical use. 

So, despite the fact that my own books are available as e-books, and it is a kick to see them in said new format, I do have a few reservations and concerns about e-books. Here's a quick list: piracy; the glut of poorly edited self-published titles; the fate of bookstores; the high price of e-reader devices; no single platform/format; the fact that by now, Kindles really should offer color; and the fact that I can't press a four-leaf clover between the pages of an e-book. I could go on and on about how e-books are not books, never will be, there's little purpose to that....

My guess is that most of my concerns will be addressed over the next few weeks/months/years as this new technology rolls forward. I truly enjoy how real books smell, feel, weigh, how they look on the shelf, how they have spines and back covers to read and admire, etc. Sadly, the tactile experience with an e-book isn't the same as with a real book. But the good news is that it is a different experience, no better or worse--just different. 

E-books are another conveyance, a new way of getting information to readers. A pretty nifty one, to be sure, but different than traditional books. Will e-books one day have that soul an old paperback exudes? I don't know. But I do know that e-books will, by default, have a place in my life, along with book-books. 

It's an exciting time to be involved in publishing--scary, too, especially if one is solely reliant on one's income as a writer, as I am--but whining and gnashing my teeth won't alter the direction it's headed. So I'm jumping in the pool and learning a few new strokes and kicks. So far, so good.

These are a few of my thoughts on the matter. Your mileage may vary.


David Cranmer said...

Some very good points, Matt.

Nik said...

Points taken - and probably being addressed by the e-reader designers. Colour probably equates to cost increase till the technology gets cheaper (in a few days or so...!).
Good thing about e-books is that the pages don't go brown and crumble when the spine breaks with age. I've got a good 2-3,000 book-books still to read so I can still enjoy the 'feel' while exploring the e-book (I'm halfway through A Policeman's Lot, Gary, and enjoying it!)


Nik - that's nice to know.

Charles Gramlich said...

I can't stand to think of my books disappearing into the e completely. Not only the ones I write but the ones I read. I'll never be for the elimination of books.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Agree with most of your points, Matt. Your second reservation/concern (after the ever-worrisome piracy) is the poor editing that goes with most self-published ebooks.

But as someone else pointed out on another blog just the other day, several of the big publishing boys have been shooting themselves in the foot on this one, too.

I am currently reading a 2006 western by one of the prestigious "names" in the field. It's published by an imprint of the huge Penguin Group (USA). Page 199, the main villain who has been a key player from the first page, is shot. "The shot hit him square in the chest..." Page 201, "blood ran down from the hole in his forehead."

As the mass-market houses let their best editors go (see Gary's next post), I can see any edge the paper books still have on the quality of editing being further eroded.