A book is a book — is a book?

2 Apr

When is a book not exactly a ‘book’? Maybe, when it’s an e-book? But not really.

As I wrote last time –  A book is a book is a book! Regardless of how it’s published, it’s still a book! Indeed, that is true. If your words are somehow issued in a format that makes them possible to be read by others, and you get paid by those astute folks, then, in my estimation – it’s a book.  If the words are not printed on paper, but sent through some electronic medium or other, then it’s an e-book!

Personally, as an old fogey, I don’t believe e-books will ever replace paper books. They do have their place, however, and a convenient one it is. Last spring, when I went to Colorado and back on the train, my dandy little NOOK was not only a library, but also a music player. There was no wi-fi on my train, but I’d put a batch of MP3s in my NOOK, so I could listen to my own music while in my compartment. The train thoughtfully provides electric outlets in each compartment, so I could keep it charged up! This little NOOK (the HD) has a computer in it, but my fingers are too fat to type on that miniscule keyboard, so I also carried my laptop. My next acquisition, the larger NOOK (HD+) also has a computer, but even better, thanks to Android, I have a Kindle app on there, too. To me, this is the best of both possible worlds!

The very first e-book I ever bought was a Georgian/Regency romance by Laurie Alice Eakes. In January, 2000, it came on a floppy disc, in HTML coding. I bought it to support the author, just as I’d bought hundreds of paperback books to support other authors in the  13 years I’d belonged to RWA. Unfortunately, I couldn’t read Laurie Alice’s book because I found the HTML to be beyond difficult. Lines of type that extended from one side of the monitor to the other were impossible for me. I tried to re-format it, but that was just too tedious and never-ending. It’s still in my computer, however, and maybe one day I’ll figure out how to do it.

E-books weren’t exactly a high priority for me, as I really preferred the traditional book. The early e-readers (at least the ones I saw) were somewhat bulky and balky, and didn’t carry much of a charge, so you could easily run out of juice at just the wrong moment. That seldom happens with a paper book.  And then there were so many different kinds of e-readers, who knew what to get? Would the format that it supported have the books you wanted to read? Maybe. Maybe not. They were NOT interchangeable.

Among the early e-readers were the Sony Librié, Rocket, Softbook, CYbook and Bookeen. Occasionally another one would pop up for a brief time, then disappear, such as the Microsoft Reader, which lived in your computer. The first mass-produced e-reader was the Amazon Kindle, which virtually exploded the then marketplace. Soon after, Barnes & Noble came out with the NOOK, and then everyone created something to perform the same functions, including Apple and Google.  The Kindle went on sale in 2007, and in July of 2010, Amazon announced that it sold more e-books than hardcover books during the second quarter of that year: 140 e-books for every 100 hardcover books. Kindle has broken sales records every quarter since then.

Now, of course, you can even read on your phone – if you can see that well, that is. Lots of us can’t, so we won’t be a very good customer for those devices, if that’s the only reason to have one.

That should not stop anyone from writing for that market however. Nearly every traditional publisher also provides their books in a multitude of e-book formats – in multiple markets. BUT – even if you’re not affiliated with a traditional publisher, that shouldn’t hold you back, if you really want to be published in e-book format.

Publishing on Kindle is amazingly easy. They issue easy-to-read and understand instructions, and provide a space to upload both the innards and the cover (in separate files). You don’t even have to know any special coding or formatting! They do it all for you, and then they offer a ‘digital proofer’ so you can see (before you publish it) how it looks. Some things you can change easily, some require more serious attention. (One little word to the wise: fancy fonts don’t work. Use a plain serif font, instead, and save the fancy stuff for print on paper, which pretty much stays where you put it!) I would strongly encourage anyone considering this venture  to pay really good attention! When it’s your name on that cover, you want it to be in the very best condition possible. This means professional editing and proof-reading, too! Once it’s the way you really want it, you can make it available in any of the Kindle stores, internationally.  Another bonus: you can insert photographs in B&W or color and they work well!

But the best part, really, is that from the day you put your book up there for sale, you can see what it’s doing in all those various marketplaces. You can issue yourself a daily sales report, if you wish. And two or three months later, you’ll reap the benefits of those sales.  Presuming there are some, and there most likely would be. If your book falls into a really popular niche, you might well surprise even yourself with your success! I would also encourage you to pay attention to the pricing of your e-book. For instance, a novella of 20,000 words, should not be priced the same as a novel of 75,000 words! It should also be lower in cost that the traditional version of the same length, etc.  You’ll definitely sell more over time, with that lower price. If you stumble, however, you can always change it later.

I heartily encourage you to try. Don’t be afraid of the Brave New World of publishing! It’s waiting out there to welcome you with friendly, open arms!

Next time we’ll talk about short stories – do you like to write them? If so, then, what do you do with them?

As always, if you have a question or a comment, please do write to me: bookmechanicATgmail.com



2 Responses to “A book is a book — is a book?”

  1. James April 2, 2014 at 1:34 am #

    Well said.

    I too think that it will be very hard to replace the experience of a book. The new readers have done a great job emulating the experience as much as they can, but there will always be a certain romanticism to reading paper.

  2. Paul April 3, 2014 at 7:09 am #

    You’re right, Kelly. Just because it’s quick and easy to publish an ebook doesn’t mean that one can skimp on editing and proofreading. Also, professional-looking, attractive covers are still important. And if you want your books distributed to Apple, B&N, Kobo, etc., an easy way is to use either Draft2Digital.com or Smashwords.com. Like Amazon, they’ll format your book for free, register the sales, and forward your payments (typically 60% of cover price).

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