Monday, 29 March 2010
Easing into Ebooks, Part 2, by Shawna Williams
Before I discuss the top three questions about ebooks, let me address this all encompassing question.
Is an ebook even a book?
According to Dictionary.com a book is:1) a written or printed work of fiction or nonfiction, usually on sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers. From the same source, an ebook is: "a book in digital form." So, I guess the best way to put it is that an ebook is a book, (a written or printed work of fiction or nonfiction) in digital form.
What does this mean for the "usually on sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers" part? Well, that brings me to the first question in our top three.
What does the proliferation of ebooks mean for print?
This question seems to raise a lot of fears amongst booklovers. I've read a full gamut of comments blaming ebooks for everything from the demise of brick and mortar stores, to being responsible for the rampant forest fires in California. (Go figure?) What it all boils down to is fear of change; specifically, that ebooks will be the end to the tried and true, comfy paper book.
Rest assured, they will not.
The paper book has tangible qualities that go beyond the content of its pages. How many of us hold a book to our heart, or stare lovingly at its cover when we feel a connection to the story inside. The story may be the object of our affection, but the physical book enhances those feelings by giving us a memento to remind us of our experience.
For this reason, we're always going to want paper books.
So here's a question: do you want this representation for every book you read?
I don't. As a Matter-of-fact, my paper books are more cherished than ever because they have been carefully selected as stories that have truly touched my heart. That doesn't mean I haven't enjoyed the hoards of ebooks on my Kindle, only that like print books, they have spanned a wide range in appeal. There have been those that made me roll my eyes, and those that failed to hold my interest. Ones I thought were good. Some I thought were great; and on occasion, I've found a book that is uniquely special – leaving me a changed person inside. And because of the ease and economy of ebooks, I've had more opportunity to find those rare gems, and they're resting in a place of honor upon my bookshelf.
So, ebooks may have an impact on the number of books going into print production, but they will not replace them.
Next question: What happens if my computer or reading device breaks? Do I lose all of my books?
Nope! When you buy an ebook you are purchasing the content, not a one-time download. Amazon, Fictionwise, Books on Board, Reader Store at Borders, even publisher storefronts, keep what's known as a virtual bookshelf for every customer. Your ebooks are stored there, and if by chance you lose them through mechanical mishap, or delete a book, and later decide you want it back, all you have to do is log into your account, go to your shelf and download it at no extra charge. You can also have the same book on multiple devices. About a third of what's on my Kindle is also on my computer through Kindle for PC. This is a big bonus since my twelve year old is entranced by a fantasy series and has been hogging my Kindle for over a month now.
And this brings me to the last question on the top three. It's a doozy. Are ebooks inferior to print books? By this, I'm referring to story, editing, and cover -- not the format.
The answer to this is, some are and some aren't. And likewise, some print books are inferior to some ebooks.
This depends on the publisher's standards. I've come across my fair share of print books -- put out by traditional publishers – with weak or implausible storylines, spelling errors, continuity errors, bad research, and characters who fall into the whole array of writing pitfalls – flat, cliché, Mary Sue, inconsistent, or just plain stupid. Some print books are fraught with corny analogies. I've seen some covers where the models' expressions seem to indicate they might be concealing a bad case of constipation. And to detract from this, the artist conveniently sprinkled the page with colorful clipart.
You can find every one of these things in ebooks put out by publishers with low quality standards too. Bad books have been, and always will be part of the industry.
But there are a number of epublishers with high standards for story, editing and cover art. These publishers, as a whole, are more inclined to take a risk on an experimental genre or new author, but that doesn't mean they've compromised they're standards. Only that a door has been opened for a talented person to share their work, and an opportunity has been given to a curious reader to enjoy it.
Now, if you're wondering where you might be able to investigate ebooks at no expense, check back next week for the third installment of this article, and I'll tell you.