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Friday, February 25, 2011

My First E-Book Experience

It started like most things do, an innocent comment from a friends.

Snippets of conversation are lethal. Fear them as you would the plague. A little whisper of an idea and before you know DOOM comes to us all.

In this case it was a strange mingling of events: a comment on Twitter, the advent of my new phone's arrival, and a desperate need to read something.

The new phone has Kindle. And then @Misabuckley mentioned she'd just bought Touched by An Alien by Gini Koch. I'd seen the book on my wishlist, but I couldn't remember who recommended it, so I'd skipped buying it.

Misa told Gini, Gini wrote back to say she might have to start crying that I'd forgotten her book, and before you knew it there I was tapping open my Kindle app and ordering her e-book from Amazon.

One-click ordering is evil. I need to turn it off. I'm going to spend way to much money on Amazon if I don't.

As unfair as it was to Gini, I was prepared to hate the book just because I was reading it on a teeny-tiny screen. I bought the e-book knowing full well I could order the paperback and finish that way if this e-book thing wasn't as great as what everyone said it was.

Cruel? Yes, but I have serious reservations about all new technology. Things must prove them self useful before I will like them.

Did I like it?

Well, the book itself was excellent. It was a nice SFR that didn't take itself too seriously (sci-fi rom-com is few and far between). It's a great read for a day when you want to relax and not worry too much about N-space math.

The e-reader.... hmmm.

- Instant access to the book - I looked up the book on Amazon, read some reviews, ordered it on my phone and a minute later I had a new book to reading.

- No shipping charges - Even with used books the cost to ship a novel is getting higher every day.

- It wasn't bad to read - I thought the small screen and only 3 paragraphs showing at a time would bother me. It didn't.

- Easy transport - The phone is with me anyways, now I can carry even a smaller purse because my phone is also my book. Win!

- Selection - While Gini's book (all that she's published to date - and she promises me she is writing as fast as she can) are all available I found another series I wanted only had some of the books available. When the second book ends in a cliffhanger and I can't start the third right away I get cranky.

- Prices - I'm not sold on this e-book thing. Especially since I don't actually own anything, but the publisher just took my cash. If I lose my phone, or if the publisher yanks the e-book, I lose my copy. What happens when technology upgrades? If new paper comes out I can still read the old format. If a new format for e-reader comes out in ten years... I have to re-buy the book. Probably at a higher price.

-- Note-- For me this means I'm only buying throw-away novels for my e-readers. Things I already have copies of in print or novels I'm not sure I'll like. If I like a novel I will track down the paperback or hardcover for it and buy for my collection. But, because of the price, I may very well buy a used copy and I know that doesn't help the authors at all.

-Author Payments - I know from various sources that not all authors are getting fairly paid for their e-books. Some make more from selling a paperback than they do the e-book, which isn't fair. I'm half tempted to contact the author and let them know I can read PDF and word documents on my phone too. If I send them $5 could they e-mail a copy of the novel? They'd make more than if I buy the e-book on Amazon.

- Quality - Here's where I go a little bit out on a limb and make some people mad... Browsing the Kindle Store I found a lot of cheap novels. Great! I love cheap books! Except, not so much. The reviews were invariably mixed, and the publisher was too often CreateSpace.
Are self-pubbed e-books bad? Probably not. Do I trust them to not suck? No. I'm sorry, I don't. Part of what I look for when I pick up a novel is the name of the publisher, and when possible, the name of the editor. If you look in the mentions section of most debut novels you will see the editor mentioned. That name is like checking for a designer label on purses when you're a fashinista. I know which editors publish stuff I like.
For everyone else, you need a recommendation.
I buy Indie books, but every single one has come with a recommendation from someone whose taste I trust. The millions of CreateSpace books on the Kindle store? They have no one to vouch for them, and I'm not willing to spend even a dollar on someone whose writing ability hasn't been vetted by anyone but the Amazon Mob.
My loss? Possibly. But if it's really a great book, someone will tell me about it.

So, that was my first e-book experience. A little bad, a lot of good. I think I might be hooked. I would be, if the third Stardoc novel were available on Kindle. That missing book shattered the dream for me and makes me a little leery. I like to collect series in all the same format, but I don't think this is a deal breaker.

I'll keep buying e-books to read for fun while I'm out and about. I'll keep buying paperbacks to build my Real Life collection at home. And sometime today I'll be ordering Gini's Alien Tango for the Kindle before I grab the paperback for my shelf at home.



  1. Glad you had a more-or-less positive first e-reading experience (man, that was a lot of hyphens!). :-)

    There is conversion software all over the place, and when new formats come out, I bet you'll be able to convert your old ebooks through one of those easily...so really, I wouldn't worry about that. Developers are well-aware of that concern.

    As for indie books - you know you can download samples of pretty much all amazon books right? For free. Maybe you aren't the person in the bookstore who opens a book to read a few paragraphs before you buy, but I always was, so I sample just about everything before I buy it, no matter who the publisher is. There are plenty of big name published books I've declined to buy after reading the sample (and plenty of indies too).

    In any case, welcome to the world of e-reading...making it easy to hide our book purchasing habits from husbands & family members everywhere. ;-)

  2. Jamie - I've tried to sample, and I can't seem to get it work on my phone. I am one of those people who flips through books before I buy. I'm picky, and I want to like the book.

    But I'll start checking the sample chapters on the computer. :o)

  3. Bummer! Wonder why that is...

    I was also going to suggest you might want to download Calibre (a search will turn up the software site). It's free, and you can convert non-drm ebooks into pretty much any format you need. Very handy for reading books across different machines, and for keeping track of your library too.

  4. Jamie, sometimes I wonder what I would do without your fabulous tech-kn-w-how (and books, and nails, and you!). :o)