Digipocalypse? Anecdotes to Explicate

Since I’m a writer, I also read a lot. A way lot. And, since I’m also a geekish sort and pretty facile with technology I feel like a have a fairly good handle on how the digital revolution has impacted reading. As a writer, I tend to pay attention to what’s going on in the publishing business as they deal (or not) with Digitial Reality.

I’m a digital Reader!

Here’s a few salient facts about me as a reader.

  • This week I bought 4 print books and 2 or 3 eBooks.
  • I own an iPhone and I read books on it using Stanza and the Kindle App.
  • For Christmas last year, I bought my mother (82) a Kindle, which she uses, by the way.
  • Before I had an iPhone if I bought a digital book, I either had to read it on my computer (Ick! I already spend too many hours at a large monitor!) or print it out, stick it in a binder and read it in bed. Pre-iPhone, I didn’t buy too many eBooks.
  • On average, I buy probably 100+ books a year. Now that I have my iPhone, that number is more like 120 or so I bet.
  • I got the first Sookie Stackhouse book as a free read in the Kindle app for my iPhone. I bought the rest as ebooks AND as print books.

eBooks are in their infancy in terms of appropriate use/existence of technology. When I bought my mother her Kindle, I had been paying close attention to what readers were saying about their experience with eReaders. (This was pre-Nook,etc) Mostly the experience sucked. I knew the Sony Reader was a no go from the start. My mother is 82, for crying out loud. There is no way in heck she could possibly deal with the multi-step process for buying and reading a book on a Sony Reader. I knew from what I was hearing and from my iPhone experience with the Kindle app that Amazon had made it dead easy to buy and read a book on the Kindle. The decision was a no-brainer.

Here’s what happened yesterday. I was a bad girl and followed RomFail on Twitter. I laughed a few times, I confess it. And then I went on Amazon and I bought the RomFail book. I read it for myself that night. From time of decision-to-buy to time of having-the-book on my iPhone: <30 seconds. Let me repeat that. LESS THAN 30 SECONDS. It wasn’t the same kind of impulse decision I make in a bricks and mortar store, but it was an impulse decision nonetheless. Powered by Amazon. (Let’s see you do that, Sony Reader Store — oh wait — does that even exist anymore?)

The book, in my opinion, read like the first draft of a story that, in the hands of competent author, might actually have been a decent story, after massive revisions. Who knows if this author is competent. She didn’t work on the story long enough to prove that she was. (This is where some digital publishers do a grave disservice to authors. Rejection is a teaching point, albeit a painful one. Books like the RomFail book prove that some publishers have such low standards they hurt an author’s chance to get better. But that’s another post.)

This weekend, I was in my local Independent Book Store that I love to death and where I spend $40-70 every time I walk in the door. There was an author signing her mystery novel. At first I was going to buy her book, because, oh gosh, I know what’s it’s like to be an author at a signing where no one buys your book. Readers just come for the cookies. But I looked at the book and it was iUniverse. In other words, she self-pubbed it. I did not buy it. See paragraph above. iUniverse has NO standards. If you have money, they will print your book. No thank you. If I’m going to buy a self-pubbed book, it will be AFTER I have heard from multiple sources that the book is great. Like Bill Deasy’s Ransome Seaborn. That book is great.

The Digital Author

As an author, I do digital all the time. I write most of my books on the computer, with the occasional print-out to read and experience on paper so I can see more stuff to fix. When I’m done, I email my MS to my editor instead of having to buy expensive paper and Fed-Exing the damn thing.

My editors, mostly, send their revisions electronically. I also email back the revised MS. One of my publishers also does electronic copy edits. This saves time, paper and money. Huzzah!

And now, my new releases also have digital versions (Kindle, Fictionwise, etc) available from various and sundry vendors.

Two of my older books, except for the two REALLY old ones are out of print and never had a digital version. One of them in particular is widely pirated and it happens to be the one that I get the most email about, too. My more recent books show up on the pirate sites within minutes, it seems, of hitting the book stores. I only hate the pirates who sell my pirated books. I don’t hate the pirates who make the books available because the evidence is that those pirates are actually helping my sales.

At the moment, I don’t stress too much about pirates.

Publishers

I don’t think publishers should stress so much about pirates either. Yet. Probably Nora Roberts and her publisher should stress about her pirated books, since the evidence says that hurts authors like her.

I think publishers should stop hiring people to chase down pirates and start hiring people whose job it should be to listen to what book readers want and then help the publisher deliver that. Plus think of stuff book readers don’t even know they want yet.

Publishers should stop treating readers like criminals in waiting and treat them like people with money to spend on their product.

My son does not read much any more. There are one or two authors he’ll read, though. My nephew, however, may be a writer-in-waiting as he is a massive reader. My son has a laptop and an iPhone. What, I often wonder, are publishers doing to entice my son’s digital time to their products? Nothing that I can tell. He plays WOW a lot and I would complain and shut that down except his last report card was 5 As and 1 B. He’ll be in honors English when school starts again. Shrug.

In Conclusion

I have no conclusions yet. Only anecdotes and opinions, as I am rarely without an opinion even early in the game.

What are your anecdotes, conclusions and opinions?

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2 Responses to “Digipocalypse? Anecdotes to Explicate”

  1. Bree says:

    I am a digital first author. I have lots and lots of anecdotes. I make a living wage publishing with Samhain. Every sale I make gets recorded in a database where I run inane queries and ponder my trends and compare my anecdotes with other authors’.

    I quit worrying about piracy at the start of the year. Full stop didn’t even bother to send C&Ds anymore. My books are more pirated than ever–they are present and reasonably active at most pirating forums. I made more in the first 6 months of 2010 than the 18 months prior.

    Obviously this is no more statistically valid than saying, “My sales are down, the pirates did it!” but it’s proof, to me, at least, that if the pirates are hurting my career, they’re not hurting it so much that I won’t be able to survive it.

    Amazon kindle sales are not insignificant. I’m seeing the same gradual increase in nook sales that I saw with kindle around this time last year. I think the minority of us may abhor a closed system with restrictive DRM, but B&N and Amazon have made their systems so convenient across multiple devices that, to the lay person, it may not seem restrictive at all. (Hell, I buy kindle books now when I rarely did a few years ago. Syncing across computers & devices is worth the DRM to me.)

    I’ve worked with a handful of epublishers. I found a few I liked. I encountered many that ranged from unprofessional to borderline crazy. But the good ones are making more than a few of their authors quite, quite rich–and it’s not just on erotic romance. There’s a huge market for affordable ebooks, and my anecdotal experience is that my books in the $3-$5 range sell so very, very many copies that it more than makes up for the small price difference. (The fact that I get 30%-40% cover price royalties does not hurt.)

    I’m not sure any of the paragraphs have anything to do with one another. LOL My anecdotes shall not be rendered coherent.