I recently took a class taught by Anna Castle on self-publishing in which she asked the audience how many had read an ebook. Most attendees raised their hands, including myself. Then I got to thinking. Sure, I read ebooks. I buy ebooks or download free ones onto my Kindle. I have quite the library of ebooks. Doesn’t everyone?
Then I thought some more. Have I ever actually read an ebook from start to finish? Perusing my collection, I found downloaded versions of classics that I have read in paper form, many self-published books that I have started but not finished, and some devotionals I have dipped into from time to time, but nothing I could say I had read “cover to cover”. Something needed to change.
There was a book I had wanted to read for awhile, Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell. Some time earlier I had seen a copy of the ebook for a low price and purchased it. Some time later I had begun to read it. I managed to get through about half and then abandoned. (Do we see a pattern?)
I was determined to finish it. It took about two days to finish it, the pace of both the book and my reading picking up towards the end. Now I can say with certainty that I have read an ebook.
Why did I stop reading this ebook and put it aside for months? The book seemed to drag on in the middle, the plot twisting around the same point repetitively. Would I have done the same if I had read it in paper version? Possibly, but I suspect not.
What took me so long to finish an ebook? The answer lies in a variety of reasons. For one, I just enjoy the feel of paper in my hand. I like the heft of a thick book, the cover and front and back matter, and the march of a book mark as it travels through the pages. I can see all the advantages of ebooks (less shelf space, easy to travel with, etc.), but I still just prefer paper. I still like to write longhand onto paper with an actual pen as well, so just call me old school.
Second, I tend to not purchase many books, but rely on the library for my reading material. That saves on cost and shelf-space, and it just feels right given my profession. But a free ebook? Or one that costs $0.99? Sure, why not? I’ll just quickly download it for later.
Low cost ebooks tend to be self-published. Many self-published books are only available in ebook format. Books by traditional publishers and well-known authors may be available in ebook, but the cost is almost as much as a paper copy. What this means is that I have started reading many an ebook, only to give up because the quality is not worth it.
Does that mean all self-published books are not worth reading? No. There are some good ones. Anna Castle’s Francis Bacon mysteries are quite enjoyable (disclaimer: I read them in their paper versions). My main concern is that anyone can publish an ebook. There is no quality control and discernment is required to make good use of your valuable reading time.
The flip side of this is that I have started reading many ebooks and have come away with the thought that “I can do better than this!” If this can be published, then certainly my work can. Speaking of which, I should get back to it. You can’t publish what you haven’t written. Well, you probably can, but you shouldn’t.