Guest Post: Books or eBooks?

What’s on the iPod: Hypocritical Kiss by Jack White

Wow. What a week. What a freaking busy week. I haven’t had so many projects at once in a few months, so it was a bit of a shock. I finished one project, have another nearly finished, and can probably toss together a third in just a few hours. I hope. Then there’s the big project I haven’t been able to touch all week. Sheesh — it’s like having a “real job” or something (snark).

I’ve been getting a few requests for people who’d like to guest post here. I love that because you get a fresh perspective and I get to hear anything besides my own voice, amen. One request was from a dude who was clearly uninformed about what I do here. No, your cloud storage blog isn’t “something everyone needs to read” nor will they be reading it here. Sheesh.

However, I recently met Lisa Perez, who is a fun, creative writer with a quirk to her that I just love. I met her when she signed up for the newsletter (you can, too — just click on the link to the right). I knew I wanted to hear more from her, so I asked her to write something for us.

She delivered. Thank you, Lisa, for your post and your words of wisdom. It’s a great conversation starter. Folks, please give her some comment love.

To Book or eBook,
That Is the Question:
by Lisa Perez

No one is denying that the concept of iBooks was a
revolutionary concept.  In a hoarder’s world
the dream of expansive, spacious libraries was being replaced by limited space
and pared-down lifestyles.  For voracious
readers especially, the amount of square footage it takes to carry multiple
copies of War and Peace or The Holy Bible was clearly going to come to
head.  Surely, it would make the
Environmentalists (i.e. hippies) happy: 
How many trees had to die to print
your book, man?”
It would make the Marketing Departments (i.e. up-sellers) happy:
“The release will hit all of our target
markets and just make our deadline…Ka-ching!”
It would make the Publishing
Houses (i.e. conglomonopolies) happy: “Record
sales, Mr. Schuster, sir…!”
It would even make Interior Decorators (i.e. Haute
Hausers) happy: “Thank goodness…we can
scrap the shelves and go for the wall-to-wall pink shag carpeting!”
As ideas go, it seemed to fit our Digital Age: iPhones,
iPads, eBills.  The idea spread and
suited our fast-paced, full-speed-ahead logic. 
Instead of ordering a book and waiting or going to a *gasp* bookstore to
wait on a long line to buy the latest best-selling novel, people could
conveniently sit in their pajamas and download a book.  This all seemed to be a perfect solution
which forgoes the obvious problems of housing physical books.  All that is, except for one: quality. 
There are certain decisions that are a matter of preference.
When cornered in a supermarket, the inevitable question of “paper versus
plastic” means that the customer has the choice to kill a tree or kill wildlife.  When at a bookstore (yes, some places still
have them), the question, “Would you like that in ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ cover?” was
a personal preference based on cost, cover art and longevity.  But the new choice has become standard book,
eBook or Audio Book? If we opt for standard books, are we romanticizing the
printed word?  Are we heartless about the
very real limitation of over-crowding and storage?  Are eBooks and Audio Books just a trend?  Is it faster to read or to listen to
books?  Will one fall victim to its
novelty?  Da-da-DAH…
Remember when the book’s jacket was just as important as the
book itself?  Many times, when I would accidentally
lose the hard-cover jacket, I would be so miffed because the look of the
outside of the novel was so bare like the clock struck midnight and Cinderella returned
to her plain-Jane servant rags. Ugh! If a book had been re-printed, I could
also choose which jacket I had wanted (e.g. A
Clockwork Orange’s
milk cover or the cog designed by David Pelham?—decisions,
decisions).  Now, the only thing that
makes one cover distinctive from another is a mass-produced color or print that
is non-distinct and kind of a bummer.
I also used to enjoy the new-book smell; the pages were
crisp and you could touch it and get a sense that something cool was going to
happen.  Try smelling a Nook.  Thought so.



Are iBooks Innovative?
No one can doubt this fact. 
It is attempting to solve mass production, waste and space problems.
It’s a shiny new toy that we love, love, love until we find fault in it.  Ways to annoy?  Here are just a few in the Con Camp:
  1. Memory – How much information can these babies hold and when
    they fail, how annoying is it than just having a hard-copy version?
  2. Font Size – Can I read all those little words that start to reduce until I can hardly read them? 
    I don’t want to have to read with a magnifying glass—even
    the cute monocle type.
  3. Glare – I can only speak about the original Kindles because I
    caved and bought one and didn’t realize that the model that I had was
    prone to glare, making it difficult to read in direct sunlight or under
    the fluorescent lights of my office space. 
    Not. Cool.
  4. Navigation / Browsing – There is nothing more annoying that
    having trouble with the control buttons of these slim earlier-model
    Kindles.  It made me feel as though
    I had gigantic hands too big to navigate. 
    In addition, the screens were confusing despite my
    tech-spertise.  I would have definitely
    been annoyed if I was a layperson with no technical knowledge. 
  5. Cross-Referencing – This is a feature they still have yet to
    figure out.  With a regular book, I
    didn’t have to buy a whole new device to reference a different book.  I could just lay it open simultaneously
    and cross-reference at will and highlight and sticky-note it for later
    viewing. 
  6. Internet Connection / WiFi capable – These days, most people
    require a “service provider” for everything: phone, cable, internet, cup
    of coffee in the morning, shopping at your favorite retail store…Does
    anyone really need WiFi when it comes to wanting to read?  I mean, last time I checked, you could
    do it for free at a place called a library (yes, children!) which didn’t
    require a monthly fee.
  7. Sharing – In an already fast-paced world, book-reading has
    become a sort of social competition to be better read that your
    cohorts.  That way, you could report
    how much more knowledgeable you have become…but wait, do you even recall
    all of the novels you raced through? 
    Eh, what does it matter?  You
    got a lot of “hits” on Goodreads this month so…all good…Back in the day,
    Book Clubs were about the gathering of a select group who genuinely wished
    to absorb the material.  It wasn’t a
    contest; it was a discussion.
But it’s not all bad, is it kiddies?  Well, there are some cool new features that
is an improvement:
  1. Access to Internet – This is a double-edged sword.  The information is there, but how
    accurate is that information?  You
    have to rely on some sketchy sources, but it’s still cool that you could
    connect and view commentary from other readers all around the globe. 
  2. Notes – I’m a traditionalist and
    will miss the sticky-notes and extensive handwritten notes (yes, in cursive) but these notes are
    sleeker and easy to access and can be viewed in list-format on most of the
    devices now.
  3. Sharper Images – Font size aside,
    the clarity of the words is something that is cool. Modern downloads are
    also including images in their digital versions.  For a purist like me though, it still
    falls short from the printed word.
  4. Color vs Black & White – Just
    like televisions of old, people have a choice of going with the more
    colorful typesets and visual imagery or stay with the standard black and
    white.  As these devices become more
    complex, I’m sure the problems with the technology will work themselves
    out as a new age of readers come along. 
  5. The Writers – With everyone moving
    with the speed of technology, we’re sacrificing good writing.  Everything has been replaced by the
    technology-at-large: Auto-correct, Auto-text, Dragon software, emoticons
    bypass sound skills with a short-hand you need a manual just to follow
    <= ;-)…brb…smilez!
Right now, I can download the latest eBook from some writer
I’ve never heard of who uploaded it on Amazon to build a customer base. 
With all of these fancy-schmancy titles like: Kindle, Nook,
iBook, Audible—are we destined to see mediocrity lauded while the more labored
traditional writer spends years as a hermit in their house to create The Great
American Novel?  Or, is that just a
pipe-dream? 


Lisa Perez blogs at MeMa’s Musings.

So what’s your take on books versus ebooks? Which do you prefer?
How does that differ from how you sell your own books?

About the author

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Comments

  • Cathy Miller September 27, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Enter the dinosaur. I still do not own a Kindle, Nook or other ereader. Nor will I download e-reading software.

    It's not that I am against the new technology or a technoid dweeb. Right now, it still feels too much like work.

    I am on my computer all day. I go to bed early at night to spend 1 – 2 hours reading. The thought of that being digital makes me think I am doing research for my business. Not rational, I know, but that's how it feels to me.

    I am sure I'll get over it and at some point cave in.

    I love the question on how it differs on how we sell our own books. I have several in the works and I know I will sell in both forms – paper and ebook. I am a big believer in choice.

    Another consideration is what the book is about. For example, I am working on one that contains business forms. I'm leaning toward not putting it in ebook format as the forms are meant for completing and possible *Gasp* printing.

    Great post, Lisa. Thanks for sharing your point of view.

    Reply
  • Kimberly Ben September 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I talked so badly about the advent of ereaders while clinging to my lovely hardbound books, vowing never to "sell out"… and guess who now carries her Kindle Paperwhite with her everywhere (and I mean EVERYWHERE) she goes…

    I consider myself a pretty hardcore bibliophile. I love, love print books – the texture, the smell – even the way they look on my book shelves. I

    This might not make sense, but there are certain books/authors I'll only purchase in print format. Still I can't deny how wonderfully simple it is to click Amazon's "buy now with 1 click" button and have my book ready and waiting within seconds. But I'm conflicted because the idea that someday print books may not exist depresses me. I feel that way about music too. I LOVE my iPod, but am still holding on to a set of turn tables and a collection of vinyl covered in dust.

    Awesome post, Lisa!

    Reply
  • Lori September 27, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Cathy, I too didn't want to stare at a screen at night after staring at a screen all day. I was gifted a Nook.I didn't use it for anything but Angry Birds (we have our priorities) for a year. Then my husband started using it for books. Fine, but I wasn't. No way.

    But recently, I've begun downloading cookbooks on them. I don't have ANY room left for paper cookbooks, so this seemed like a great idea. It was. And a few magazines have appeared on there, but I'm still not liking reading for leisure on them.

    Kimberly, I remember. 🙂 You're right — it's too easy, too convenient to buy books on the damn things.

    Lisa, thank you again for the post. A great conversation starter!

    Reply
  • Devon Ellington September 27, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    I think there's room for both. I prefer to read print books. However, most of my own work comes out in e-format first. And do well.

    If I'm travelling, an ereader makes more sense — I can store more books without having to pay for overweight luggage!

    But I like the intimacy of holding a book, which is something a screen can't do.

    Reply
  • Lori September 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    Devon, agreed. I got my mom a Nook because when she and Dad head to Ontario every summer, she doesn't want to lug 12 books.

    I like books because dropping them doesn't cause minor heart attacks. 🙂

    Reply
  • Paula September 27, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Nice post, Lisa!

    Like Cathy, I don't have any e-readers. I don't even have a smart phone.

    But if someone wanted to give me an e-reader I'd probably love it. Who knows – it might make reading easier for me despite all of my annoying floaters.

    Count me among everyone above who believes there's room for paper books and e-books.

    Reply
  • Lori September 27, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Paula, if you were in my house right now, you might change your mind about that "room for paper books" thing. We have boxes we can't unpack — no more shelves! Time to buy more.

    Reply
  • Gabriella F. September 27, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    I got a Kindle from a client a few years back, and I like it. I've also tried the Kindle app on my iPad, but for some reason, I don't like it as much as my Kindle, even though it's more advanced.

    I, too, was a "bookie" who kept all books I'd read. But I came to the painful conclusion several years back that I just didn't have the space. I think that's what made it easier for me to transition to ebooks.

    One complaint, though. I protest the crazy-high prices of ebooks! I never bought hardcover before, so it's irritating for me to pay much more than $7-8 for an ebook. but that's my problem, not others!

    Reply
  • Lillie Ammann September 28, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    I seem to be the oddball here, but I've been an avid e-reader – as in a person who reads electronically, not a device for reading 🙂 – since 1999. That's when my first novel was published as an ebook.

    Without ebooks, I would no longer be able to read. Despite the mention of small font in the post, I actually set the font very large on my Kindle so I can see the words to read them. My vision is too poor for normal print. Also holding a print book is difficult because of my arthritis. I like to read when I eat, so I need to be able to hold a book with one hand, and it's hard to hold a paperback and turn the pages one-handed. I agree there are some poorly written ebooks – it's easy to publish, so many writers take shortcuts. However, there are also many well-written books. I read far more indie published books than traditionally published books. Indie books have the advantage of being less expensive than ebooks from the big guys. In fact, I have more than 500 books on my Kindle, and I downloaded most of them when they were offered in a promotion for free. Since it will take me more than two years to read the books I have on hand, I'm trying to restrict myself from downloading more, but I can't resist.

    Although I personally prefer to read ebooks, I still love print books and have a huge collection of autographed books on three walls of my office. I will buy a print book to be autographed by a favorite author but actually read the book on my Kindle.

    Almost all of my editing clients self-publish in both print and electronic formats. I would be willing to put any of their books alongside a book from a major publisher for a quality comparison. I've even handed people two books, one from a major publisher and one that I've edited for an indie/self-publisher and challenged them to tell me which was which. No one has ever been able to tell the difference.

    It's true that it can be more difficult to find the well-written indie ebooks among the zillions of titles available. However, I subscribe to several blogs that list free and discounted ebooks as well as a number of review blogs. Reading the descriptions and the reviews can usually winnow out the really bad ones. If I start something I don't like, I simply delete it and move on to something else. That's an advantage of watching for free and discounted books – if I don't read them, I haven't wasted money.

    I'll get off my soapbox, now. Sorry, Lori, I know you didn't invite me to write a guest post. 🙂

    Reply
  • Lori September 29, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Lillie, you can write a guest post for me any time you like. 🙂

    You make great points. I know my own dad can read on my Nook, and it's helped me as my own eyesight starts to go downhill.

    How ironic is it that my books are all e-books. 🙂

    Reply