Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kindles and Robot Overlords

It’s pretty much a given by now that e-readers aren’t going anywhere. They represent the future, and it won’t be long before we all have computer chips put right into our skulls and we’ll be able to download info from anywhere in the world by blinking our right eye and making a funny gesture in the air with our fingers. Our Robot Overlords will allow us one half-hour every week for recreational purposes before getting back to work on the Brain Feed, supplying virtual candy corn to the Automated Council of Top Dogs.
Yeah, I’m okay with that. We have a while yet before the current crop of presidential hopefuls reveal themselves to be automatons from outer space. So we should use the time we have left to take full advantage of the e-reader revolution.
I mostly don’t mind reading e-books. I mean, they’re okay. Would I rather have an actual paper copy of a book to read? Yes, I would—it’s just what I’m used to is all. The feel of an actual book in your hand, one that requires you to turn pages and stuff, is comfortable to me and I suspect I’ll always prefer that. But reading a book on a Kindle or Nook or laptop is fine—whatever it takes to transmit the story from the author’s head to mine.
My own personal criterion comes down, totally, to price. I rarely buy books—actual paper books, that is—brand new anymore. Honestly, I just can’t afford them. I wish I was in a position to support my favorite writers in that way, but man… times is hard, yeah? I have a car payment coming up, for christ’s sake, and I haven’t been to the dentist in three years.
So when I buy paper books, it’s almost always at the used book store. Being able to buy a stack of old books for five or ten bucks is one of the greatest feelings in the world, and brings home how precious the actual book can be—an e-reader can’t replicate that feeling.
But: if you’re milling around Amazon, window-shopping at the Kindle store, you come across so many great books for SO cheap… a book for anywhere from .99 cents to 3.99 is, honestly, just a killer deal, especially considering that you get to read it within SECONDS of finding it.
When an e-book is priced at more than 3.99, though… I’d rather have it as an actual paper book. It slays me when I see a book put out by one of the major publishing houses, and it’s priced at 10 or 12 or even 16 bucks on Kindle… for real, man?? Honestly, are you fucking serious? My gut reaction to that is: Screw you and your fucking book, okay?
My novel, THE BASTARD HAND, has been available as an e-book for a couple-three months now, and it’s priced at 3.99—which is, honestly, the most I could see paying for an e-book (oh, and it’s totally worth it, I promise). It’s actually selling TONS better than it did in paper. And my short story collection DIG TEN GRAVES (which I put out myself) is .99 cents. It’s been moving steadily, and I suspect the reason for that is how cheap it is. Folks are willing to give something a chance if it’s that cheap.
My point: the so-called “e-book revolution” could be a great thing, if it keeps prices reasonable and brings reading material that would otherwise be unavailable to the masses of us who are hungry for it. But if the publishing industry doesn’t get its collective head out of its collective ass and realize that it’s a different ballgame entirely, then… screw e-books. Give me paper.

image by Ron Warren Photography


  1. Kindle is like a pulp fiction revival. I bought 5 A N Smith e-books for the price of one paperback

  2. Seth, that's a helluva bargain. And it makes me glad we have e-books.

  3. It's slowly moving, but it's getting there. E-books wills take over sooner of later, it's a question of time, no matter how me or two love the paper(and I love the paper versions a lot better)E-Books are cheap, eco-friendly and potentially will keep big publishers honest. It might take two or twenty-five years, but we're getting there for sure.