Writers: Still Holding Out Against Electronic Books?
I’m surprised by how many writers I meet who dismiss e-readers without a second thought. I’ve now owned them for several years, and thought I should run a quick evaluation.
Sales of e-readers are plateauing, paper book sales are up. I can see why; the publishing industry didn’t want to suffer the same fate as the music and cinema industries, and it hasn’t cost them much to fight back. Books are more attractive now with special offer prices, reprints presented by guest writers, better design – peanuts in terms of real expenditure, but it has largely worked. The real boon is online purchasing, so e-reading and paper books work well together instead of fighting one another for the same market.
You don’t pirate a book in the way you might copy a digital music file; it’s simply not worth the effort. Much of my research reading involves buying books which never appear in digital format because they’re simply too niche-oriented. Then why do I own two Kindles? For the same reason that all writers should own at least one.
I travel quite a bit and keep a large digital reference library on me at all times. The pages are aligned from one device to the next, so I’m always at the same point in my research. I highlight passages, make notes and learn new words, all of which are auto-added to my laptop. Ambient screen light, typeface size and portability mean I read in far more places than before. I toggle between reviews, research and whatever I’m reading.
But the biggest boon is the free material. Keeping a permanent collection of works by major authors means I can check references instantly. If I lose my Kindle I only replace the physical device because everything’s Cloud-based. And I use it for pleasure, not just work. I like the reading experience. Turn off the page numbering and you won’t know you’ve embraced on an 800 page novel, so it won’t daunt you. Plus, I tend to read four volumes at once. Right now I’m on a rare volume by Norman Collins, John Buchan’s ‘The Blanket of the Dark’, David Edgar’s ‘How Plays Work’ and an obscure Ngaio Marsh. Finding these books digitally would have been unthinkable even two years ago.
Who knows what influences will end up in your work? We mulch and grow our own seeds from the groundsoil of others. I even download large format books for their text value (I don’t enjoy visuals on e-readers). Also, old novels are often packaged at extremely attractive prices.
There are exceptions; a few authors have been inappropriately priced on Kindle. But as a tool in the writer’s arsenal, it has finally become an essential item. By comparison, being a bit of a notebook freak I purchased a Moleskin notebook (I wouldn’t if I’d read their ad blurb, which suggests the main reason for purchase is that Hemingway had one) and a case for it, only to find that one didn’t fit the other and both fell apart in days.
Sometimes, though, only a pen, paper and a book will do. But considering books are probably a writer’s biggest outlay, a Kindle repays itself many times over. I prefer the Oasis over the Voyage but the Voyage has an origami cover you can stand on a coffee table.
All observations welcome!