Monday, June 17, 2013

NINJA STUFF: E-books Vs. Print Books

Hi there, Esteemed Reader! I saw Man of Steel twice this weekend and it was indeed the glorious experience I've been yearning for all year. Henry Cavil is second only to Christopher Reeve as Superman, and Amy Adams is the best onscreen Lois Lane I've ever seen. Johnathan Kent's fate was lame and silly (what an idiot), the Jesus imagery was overbearing and unnecessary, but the action scenes blew my mind and Superman's super-fights have never been more convincing. There's nothing quite so enjoyable as seeing a favorite story well told. But I don't do movie reviews, so that's where we'll leave it.

I wanted to sound off today with my take on e-books: I love them. I've had an Amazon Kindle for two years now and when I'm forced to read an actual physical printed book, I sort of resent it. I've lugged around the wrist bending Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire before, and I far prefer the Kindle version.

I realize that in the eyes of some of you Esteemed Readers, I am now worse than Hitler for having admitted that:) I know this because I listen to all the panel discussions of editors and publishers I can get my hands on and many of them are focused on this very topic. And almost always the panel concludes that e-books are nice, but printed books are better. I completely disagree.

I get the argument for the printed book, I do. But as someone who just moved and who has acquired 8 full book cases over a life well-lived; as someone who just had to lug those books over no small number of stairs, when my Kindle could've easily held most of them and been carried in a bag with a bunch of other stuff, I'm wondering why more people aren't openly embracing e-books.

My prediction: print will never die completely, but most reading in the future will be of electronic text. Thank goodness! If people didn't read electronic text, this blog would cease to exist. It's going to be a while before all people have access to e-readers, which is what keeps me from seriously considering self-publishing (more on that in a moment). As with everything in the world influenced by Gordon Gecko and Ayn Rand, there is a great disparity between the few people privileged to have e-readers, and the many who have to rely on physical books to learn how to perform self surgeries and other sad things our current economic model of screw-everybody-but-those-at-the-top has brought about.

When the ninja was a wee child, many Supermans ago, my family was the only one I knew with a personal computer my father got (the phone in my pocket is far more powerful) because he was a man named Kent who worked for a newspaper. These many years later, almost no one works for newspapers (the new Lois Lane works at The Daily Planet, but publishes on a blog), and almost everyone has access to a computer, whatever their economic status. I'm friends with a struggling family who have a laptop, but can't afford internet service, which is why I don't worry about them reading this post:)

Mrs. Ninja is fond of proclaiming that physical media is dead, and despite the shelf of VHS tapes in my closet, she's probably right. I've mentioned before I no longer have a television or a video game system. I played Bioshock Infinite by downloading a PC version to my laptop and I'll be watching the final season of Breaking Bad by purchasing commercial-free episodes through Amazon, which I'll watch when it's convenient to me, not at 10:00 on a Sunday night when I have to be up early to write before work.

The nearest book store is a 30-minute drive from me and I live in Indianapolis, not exactly a ghost town. A few years from now, the nearest book store may be an hour away. Most readers have the option of either the one book shelf at Wal-mart, or the library. With an e-reader, you never have to leave your house for a new book, and you never have to be limited by the supply of your local library or increasingly less-local retailer.

E-books are here to stay and the proliferation of e-readers increases, they're only going to become more prominent. As publishers buy up publishers, creating an eventual super publisher with the power to solely determine what will and won't be published, I say the advent of e-readers is the best possible news for writers. We'll talk more about self publishing another post as its something I've started paying a lot more attention to, but for now I just want to say how happy I am that's it an option.

Writers being able to deliver their stories direct to their readers without a publisher's permission will undoubtedly result in some bad books published before they or their author is ready, but traditional publishing has often resulted in the same. I'm glad I got to read Lynne Reid Bank's The Wrongly-Coulored Dragon and Joni Sensel's 3rd in The Farwalker Trilogy, and if traditional publishing were the only game in town, those books might still be on their author's shelves.

Given that the Ninja routinely interviews literary agents and editors (the path to traditional publishing), and that my review policy specifically forbids self-published books for Book of the Week consideration, all of this is revolutionary thinking for me. An old critique partner of mine, Susan Kaye Quinn, started her blog at the same I started this one. She went the self-publishing route and has far more readers than I do and wonderful books you can and should read right now, right this moment. The Ninja has a collection of manuscripts you may one day get to read.

In conclusion, Man of Steel was seriously mind-blowing:) If you've always wanted to see Superman punch a dude from one side of Metropolis to the other (who wouldn't want to see that?), you need to get to the theater and help get the grosses up so I can one day bask in the joy of a sequel.

And if you have your own thoughts about e-books and/or modern self publishing, please sound off in the comments below.


  1. I couldn't agree more with everything (I'm going to see Superman on Thursday! Can't wait!). I think the larger world (outside the trad-pub ecosystem) HAS embraced ebooks a lot more fervently. Those tablets and kindles are selling to someone.

    And wow, it seems like forever since we started out, doesn't it? Even longer in internet-years! And yet, it's been about 4 actual-calendar-years, if memory serves. And that manuscript is still long-buried because it went the trad-pub route and came close, but never published. I've toyed with indie publishing it, but it's MG and that market STILL hasn't arrived on the indie scene. And yet... I may do it anyway (but not before revisions). But first, I have another MG manuscript that I plan to shop (and then indie publish if it doesn't sell). Because while trad-pub still has a lock on paper distribution, there are more parents - and even teens! - reading my books every month. And if even some of them would like to read or recommend a little middle-grade story of mine, that will make publishing it worthwhile.

    Eventually... the MG indie market will take off. It's taking longer than I expected, but only in the sense that it wasn't practically instantaneous. Give us 5 years or 10, as a society, and ebooks will be the norm for kids as well as adults.

    Thanks for the flash from the past!!

    1. Hi Susan!

      How great to hear from you. I'm awful about commenting, but I've been trolling your blog and I couldn't be prouder at how far you've come! You're my Indie publishing hero! I hope your prediction is accurate as I would love to see more MG books published the Indie route.

      Keep up the outstanding work!

  2. I still like print books, but also enjoy e-books. They are great for traveling and not having to lug around books. I did a little survey about e-books on my blog when I did a book giveaway hop and got over 100 responses. I was surprised that so many people prefer print books and don't have e-readers. So I think it's awesome that there are both options available.

    1. I agree with Natalie, I enjoy print but also read the harder to find ebooks as well. I too like the ease of carrying them around.

    2. I'm with you guys. For some things, it's still nice to have a print book. But anymore, the only time I use a print book is when authors send me a free copy:)

  3. Well, I'm one of those people who still don't own an e-reader. (Yes! It's true!) And I still prefer print books. But I'm also in my fifties, so I spent many decades reading print books, I find it less tiring on my aging eyes, and I'm fine with lugging around books, as you say. I mostly read MG and they're not that heavy.

    If other people prefer ebooks, they're welcome to them. I think both will co-exist for quite a while. Amazon is probably the main reason you have no local bookstores, Robert. One question: how will you get authors to sign your ebooks?

    1. Just wanted to hop in and say that I sign my ebooks all time through Authorgraph! :) And when I go to print book signings, I usually bring my ereader and have authors sign that as well - sort of like signing an autograph book. #totalgeekthatway

    2. What she said. I'm not fully endorsing self-publishing over traditional... yet. And I'm not planning to go that route... yet. But I've read some really excellent self-published books recently and read some arguments that make it a great option for some writers, like Susan, Lynne, and Joni, among many others. Hugh Howey's "I, Zombie" was one of the best zombie stories I read last year, and that was self-published. I think self-publishing has become a viable alternative and is well worth considering.

  4. I think relying on plunging ereader prices to be the Great Equalizer is a little short-sighted. I went to a conference last week and learned that there are more smartphones being manufactured on Earth than babies being born, and that a vast majority of the developing world uses smartphones and other mobile devices to access the Internet. That means that people already have ereaders in their pockets. Making content easier to read for mobile might be the way that indie writers get their stuff in front of more audiences. Physical media is dead (I will never tire of telling you this!), and mobile is the future. Everyone better get on board with it.

    1. While I won't agree yet that physical media is dead (you'll have to drag me kicking and screaming to that point), I agree with Sharmin that mobile devices are the future, not e-readers. My son designs video games and he's working hard on creating the droid and iphone versions because that's how people want to play now. So I can see that people might also want to read a book that way. But it's too small for me! I'll still be using my local library to borrow print books until there aren't any more print books to borrow. Great discussion, Robert. Thanks! :)


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