That’s right, y’all. I’m a shameless booksniffer. Want to woo me? Don’t bring me flowers and take me to a movie–bring me old books, yellow and sweet with age. Take me to a museum. Show me something different. That being said, I want to talk about something that has been much covered over the past few years. The rise of the electronic book. Now, I’m with Stephen Fry who notes that
“Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.”
I’m not an either/or girl. I prefer both/and options, even when they aren’t offered. A lot of people bemoaned the rise of electronic books, especially when the school system in many places tried to transition exclusively to electronic content. But why do we need to choose?
I’ll be the first to admit that I will always prefer printed books. I like the feel of a book in my hands, the contextual details that go with reading a corporeal text, and the reliability of that text. It’s never going to change on me. I live in constant dread of the fickle nature of the internet when it comes to my news sources–stories about controversial subjects have a strange habit of evaporating, leaving an unpleasant scum of File 404 behind them. But I’m not here to talk about conspiracy. What I do want to consider is how becoming an independent author changed how I see electronic media.
I used to shun electronic books exclusively. I hated the thought of them. It was as if a subtle threat had been leveled at my beloved print, and I wanted no part of it. But, I have to be honest, digitization of printed material has proven a wondrous gift in other parts of my life. I think about all the far-flung libraries and archives–institutions in other countries, closely guarded rooms deep in the bowels of collegiate libraries, and government data storage–that I can never hope to visit in person. Many places have run fund-raisers and convinced their board members to allocate funding for converting their archives into digital databases. This makes access much easier for both serious researchers and the casually curious. It aids in the spread of knowledge, and that’s a good thing.
About six months ago, I reassessed my stance on electronic books. When I taught English at the University of New Mexico in order to defray the cost of Graduate tuition, Project Gutenberg proved a life saver. They provide free access to public domain works of literature in convenient e-book form, as well as a variety of other formats. I’m a huge fan of their initiative. But for some reason, that enthusiastic support didn’t translate to the open market. Why not? It might have something to do with the fact that many institutions were trying to replace printed books with ebooks entirely. I cannot tell you how disastrous that would be. There are plenty of studies that document the lackluster educational outcomes from such a curriculum shift. We still need printed material, because we are animals of context.
Does that mean ebooks are the devil? Not at all. But I never would have discovered that if I hadn’t essentially gone into business for myself, publishing my work via Kindle Direct Publishing. Honestly, what began as a move of desperation on my part has opened up an entirely new avenue of experience. I needed a way to support fellow authors of ebooks, in order to integrate myself into the existing community of self-published authors. Kindle now offers an array of free applications, so that my standard excuse of, “I don’t have a Kindle” no longer applies. So, I started reading. While I’m restricted by budget to the free books that authors offer as a promotion for their work, I pay in whatever way I can–usually by writing and posting a review of that free book to Goodreads or Amazon.
Making Connections With Amazon
I’ve read a variety of different genres by taking advantage of those free days on ebooks with my reading app. While I’m still in the process of writing reviews of several, including two children’s books and an interesting suspense novel, I’d like to introduce you to Emmanuelle de Maupassant. She writes erotica, yes, but this isn’t your typical Plot, What Plot? sort of fare. It’s intelligent, deeply researched and contextualized for historical veracity, and incorporates humor in a way that reminds me of my favorite, though more tame, authors. I formed a connection with her through a women’s writer group on Facebook, and later Twitter and Goodreads. Her work is sumptuous, and she is a lady of profound talent.
Another wonderful woman I’ve formed a virtual friendship with is Suzette Forsythe. While she’s planning to drastically revamp her current offering, adding chapters and doing some extensive editing, we’ve had some wonderful conversations, shared research materials, and traded puppy stories. She’s a delight. What’s more is that she’s a teacher in her local school system and an adjunct at a community college. I learned that at the beginning of her classes, she holds a period of silent reading for her students. They can choose their subject matter, either bringing their own books or selecting from her library of virtual and printed materials. This is golden. I love that she is doing her part to keep the joy of reading alive and well, and I salute her.
Another platform to which my exploration of electronic publishing has introduced me is Wattpad. It’s similar to web-publishers like Tablo and other read-for-free sites that allow writers to put their work online for readers to sample. While I will admit that much of the work I’ve investigated on Wattpad has not been to my taste, I applaud the initiative. I’m thrilled that there are multiple forums in which writers can post their work, be read, and both communicate with readers and receive feedback. These are, in my estimation rather vital to helping new writers–or those new to the idea of authorship–craft their work and streamline their approach to the industry. It also helps emerging authors gain a following to help them when they begin to sell their books. This is one of the lesser-known little facts about publishing your work. Whether you go the traditional route with an established print publishing house, or do it the way I did–wake up one morning and decide you’re going to publish books on KDP–you do your own promoting.
I’d like to take a moment to shamelessly promote an author whose work appears on Wattpad. If it wasn’t good, I wouldn’t be saying this…It’s not just good. It’s one of my new favorites. Those of you who have any experience with me know I don’t do shallow praise. Michael Dellert has produced a work of dark fantasy that I can’t seem to get enough of. In fact, I liked what I read so much, I actually spent an entire day with him when he was passing through Georgia on business. Thanks to that little bit of daring, I got the inside scoop on a storyline that has been in the works for two decades. Hedge King in Winter is a free novella he’s publishing in episodes via Wattpad, but it’s only the merest taste of this complex and deeply researched world.
His work is highly detailed and represents, as I said, decades of research and world building, with a uniquely crafted history that spans millennia. It incorporates linguistics, Celtic and other pertinent world histories, fantasy, adventure, deeply laid sociopolitical themes that echo those of feudal societies, and a rich context that speaks to his status as a true Wordsmith. To keep a long story as short as possible, I would love it if you’d visit his Wattpad page and read the story for yourself. I know I’m hooked, but I think you should also have the opportunity to experience this fantastic narrative. Here are the links for the first three episodes. The fourth is currently up, and available as well.
I suppose, other than promoting other authors’ work, my point in writing this was to encourage you to explore. We often set boundaries on our experience by making decisions without really investigating our options. This is a human thing, a result of our limited capacity to drink deeply of the world. We can only actively juggle so many ideas at once before we have to put something down. That being said, I’m glad I had my opinion of ebooks and the electronic publishing industry realigned. I’m learning so much about the business of traditional publication, self-publication, and networking. And, too, I’m making connections with other human beings. Laugh if you wish, but that’s something that means more to me than having thousands of followers on social media that I never really talk to. Real human connection–moments that have meaning–that’s what I’m after in this life, whatever medium I choose.