Monday, August 20, 2007

Why I Love eBooks by PG Forte

I got fan mail this morning.

Fan mail, in case you don't already know this, is one of the best things about being an author. Praise from people you know is always nice (and semi-suspect if it’s from someone you refer to, or who refers to you, as ‘Mom’). A good review always puts a great, big smile on my face. But for someone to take the time to write you––right out of the blue––for no other reason than to tell you that she loves your books and when will the next one be out...well, wow. Does it get any better than that?

But, I digress...

There's a reason, after all, why this post is titled 'why I love e-books' rather than 'why I love fan mail'. The letter this morning came from a woman in Norway (where, as my daughter so very helpfully pointed out, they speak another language). If it weren't for e-books, this woman would never have found my books.

In fact, if it weren't for e-publishing and the internet I wouldn't have readers in Australia or Singapore either, not to mention reviewers in London and Jamaica!

Yet, for far too many people, e-books just aren’t real books, e-publishers aren’t real publishers and e-authors...well, we just aren’t real authors. Are we?

Sigh. I suppose I should be used to it by now. As a writer of (primarily) romance, I’m already not considered a ‘real writer’ by a large number of literary snobs. Especially not here in the university town I call home. As a writer of erotic romance I’m completely beyond the pale in some folk’s eyes.

Which is why I find all the posturing at Romance Writers of America (where they’ve recently ‘re-defined’ their ideas about what it takes to be recognized as a publisher or as a published author) to be ridiculous. Not to mention pointless, predictable, tacky, ironic, amusing and sad.

It’s rather like the housemaids looking down on the field hands, isn’t it?

According to RWA’s arbitrary and somewhat silly (IMO) standards most (if not all) e-pubs just don’t qualify as publishers. Sorry. Too bad, so sad. I’d be more inclined to laugh it off as a really bad joke if it weren’t for the fact that...well, it’s not really a laughing matter to the very many talented, dedicated professionals who choose to publish, distribute, promote—whatever—our books primarily on the internet.

We’re the Rodney Dangerfields of the reading and writing world, it seems. We get no respect. Or, as the good people at EPIC (the Electronically Published Internet Connection) are putting it these days: it’s not easy being e. And ain’t that the truth?

I really don't understand why more people aren't enthusiastic about e-books. They’re clearly the future of publishing. Look at any sci-fi movie, TV show or book that’s been produced in the past forty years or so. What does the future of reading look like (in all but the most depressing post-Apocalyptic visions, where we’re all living in caves again or floating around on rafts)? It looks a whole lot like today’s e-book readers—that’s what!

E-books are convenient, fast, cheap and environmentally friendly.

You can buy them almost instantaneously, from the comfort of your home—or anywhere else you happen to be. They take up no space at all and if you happen to lose them all due to a computer crash, many e-publishers will replace them for you. Try doing that with a print publisher! You can load who-knows-how-many of them onto an e-book reader and carry around one paperback-sized reader instead of a small library.

In addition, new e-books are cheaper to buy than new print books (especially big ol' books like some of mine have been) which means you can afford to buy even more books. And the technology is getting better and more readily accessible all the time. Last year the New York Times even published an article about the possibility of e-paper subscriptions becoming available in the coming months. Yes! Daily newspapers that you can read on a flexible, foldable, re-usable reader. Then there’s the environmental advantage. Think of all the trees we'll save.

Seriously, where's the bad here? Unless you're looking for doorstops or something to line your birdcage?

Sure, e-books have taken a lot longer to hit the mainstream than many of us thought (or hoped) would be the case. I know a lot of people who are still waiting for my books to make it into print before they read them. And it’s possible I would have sold more books by now if they were readily available in brick-and-mortar bookstores. I would probably have made more money if I had a NY publisher handing out big advances, too.

But would my books have gone into production as quickly? Would they stay ‘in print’ indefinitely? Could you buy them in Oslo or Singapore, Sydney or Kingston or Toronto? I seriously doubt it. Which means I would never have received the lovely note this morning that totally made my day. The note that reassured me that hell, yes, I’m a real author. And those were real books I wrote. The kinds of book that real people can read and love and cherish. That they can pass on to their children (well, okay, maybe not the erotica) That they can—OMG—quote from!

I’m thinking that, for an author, it doesn’t get any more real than that!

PG Forte


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