Thursday, December 23, 2010

In which Tom is less crotchety regarding e-books.

Here's a subject that's been on my mind since my slippery adventures releasing Vessel as an e-book. Up until about two weeks ago, I was one of those "need to hold the book" kinds of people. I still am. If it's a book I'll love and adore--or one I'll refer to often--then I want the cuddly, old-school print edition. Yes, when it comes to books, I'm a regular old Paper McPaperson.


Like an emotional drinker on a date of desperation, I am starting to come around to the e-book's merits. Here they are, as I see them:

a. Authors with limited resources (i.e., they are broke as shit and can't seem to catch an agent's heavenly gaze) can build a substantial following of readers by releasing e-books. The e-book party is like a Presbyterian fellowship dinner--anyone's allowed to contribute and no one is rejected (with a few notable exceptions). If you don't suck, and if you work hard enough to advertise your book, you can sell it, get readers interested, and then move boldly into print.

b. On the flipside of that: e-books allow readers access to hundreds of authors and works which they'd otherwise never see--maybe even track down printed books after making these new discoveries. Seriously, there are some real gems to be found, if you can get through all the teen fanfic and the porn . . .

c. Porn! My god, the porn! Something like half of all e-books published on Smashwords are amateur erotic shorts, followed closely by romance stories (lady porn, with more talking). The sickest things imaginable, all at your sticky fingertips. And it's literature, so you feel better. Before as well as after.

d. Think of the trees.

e. Free books! Loads of e-books are available for free. Free how-to guides. Free reference material. Free poetry. Free shorts. Free novels. It's true that free can sometimes mean poor quality. But who hasn't bought a book that sucked?

f. Cost and convenience. Really want that $25 book on social media marketing strategies (I sure do), but know the information will be obsolete next month when Mark Zuckerburg decides to once again fuck everyone's eyes and rearrange facebook? Pay way less for the e-book version. Stuck at the airport and don't want to pay two human limbs for The Girl Who Kicked A Pit Bull in the Head? Hunt a good novella down on your Kindle. You get to read good work you'd never otherwise have seen, and some girl in Vermont gets $3. Everyone wins. Except the Girl Who Kicked A Pit Bull in the Head. And she had it coming.

Bottom line: E-books eliminate the widening, festering moat between author and reader. They are a necessary good in the current battle to gut the publishing industry. Do not fear the e-pocolypse. Do not fear the "end of books". Books aren't going anywhere. Socrates was afraid that writing would make discussion and thought obsolete, but the Greek alphabet came out 3,000 years ago and guys still sit around talking about bitches, music, and politics. Books are safe. Bookstores are not. So you like books? Then continue creating demand for them. Go to a bookstore. Buy books. And we will all live happily ever after.

Also, give e-books a try. Starting with Vessel! Don't even kid yourself by downloading the free sample--you know you want to read the whole thing.