The dangers and short-comings of e-books

On Friday afternoon I finished work a bit earlier than usual and so arrived back home while the local Waterstones was still open. I popped in to have a little browse and bumped into a friend who works there. We, and another guy who works there, got into a bit of a discussion about the pro’s and con’s of e-books. It was an interesting three way debate as we each held a distinctly different view. One thoroughly opposed to e-books, one on the fence and one, me, enthusiastic and keen about them.

In the interest of balance, given how I am, on the whole, very excited about e-books, I got thinking about the ways in which they perhaps are not very good.  So here we go again; another blog post about the merits of e-books.

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Self-publishing in the digital age

For as long as I have been writing with the intent to eventually try to sell what I write I have had people ask if I would self-publish. My answer was always no. Self-publishing, vanity press and print-on-demand always seemed like a bit of a cop out. Like giving up before I had even started. If I couldn’t get industry professionals to put money up to get the book out there why would I want to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of my own money on it? Getting an agent and then subsequently getting a publisher seems like a kind of quality control process. If you can’t make it down those traditional channels maybe the book isn’t good enough.

With my manuscript almost ready to start submitting it remains my intention to approach the best industry professionals with it rather than self-publishing. But self-publishing has changed. It is no longer the domain of those willing to spend money in order to side-step the traditional publishing industry. It can now be achieved with no start-up cost whatsoever and seemingly very little to lose.

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Feel free to dog-ear your pages

About ten years ago I was having lunch at work with a friend. This particular friend was, like many people, of the opinion that books are precious, valuable objects that need to be preserved, protected and revered. He was extremely frustrated with the way I folded the corners of my pages over to mark my place and the way I occasionally wrote notes in the margins or underlined passages. I lost count of the number of angry lectures I had to endure about the sacred nature of books and the responsibility we as a people have to look after our books so that future generations can reap the same benefit from them as we did. He was stubbornly insistent and, in a rare display of me losing my temper, instead of folding over the corner I tore a page out of the book and used it as a book mark. He was furious.

Even though we have had the mass printing press since about 1440, surely the invention of e-books will finally put this argument to rest?

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Marks out of five

One book that I am really looking forward to is Haruki Murakami’s IQ84. It has been out in Japan for a while but I am still waiting for the English translation to arrive. A little while ago it turned up on Amazon and I was very close to buying it but I couldn’t see anywhere on the Amazon page specifically stating that it was the English version. A few days later a one star review appeared complaining that the book was in fact in German.

The Amazon five star review system has always seemed to me to be of dubious value and this review highlighted some the inadequacies with it. But is it more good than bad?

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