Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Thursday News: More About Mars; Ebooks are for genre readers; Print...

I feel for you Hitler, I really do. That said, my little index finger will be hovering over the buy button on the 12th.

In short… if you’re looking to the ereading revolution to save interesting, innovative and revolutionary writing then Ewan Morrison’s bang on: you’re looking in the wrong place. The challenge for those of us who care about quality is going to be to find the texture, resonance and depth of ‘literature’ — whatever that is — within the tight strictures of an undeviating narrative shorn of anything the average reader might regard as ‘art’.” David Hewson

A long time ago, I wrote an article about how literary fiction writers should embrace digital publishing. This author, a literary fiction writer, claims that digital books (which he seems to equate with self published ones) do not do well in digital because digital readers are genre readers; not literary fiction readers. He has some interesting things to say. I don’t think I really agree with him wholeheartedly in part because literary fiction people have been some of the strongest advocates of the print form, eschewing digital. It may be that the primary audience of Hewson’s books simply prefer reading print and therefore self publishing digitally is missing the main audience.

This is the text of an order in the Oracle v. Google intellectual property case. I think the list of paid journalists and bloggers could be really interesting and potentially damaging if these writers haven’t previously disclosed.

I was wondering why the photos from Curiosity were so poor I needed everything labeled (and possibly even when they are in high res, I will need labels) but the good news is that better, amazing photos are yet to come.  And just as I was getting this article ready to go, this panoramic image of Mars was posted.

Why wait until there is a crisis to make a change?

 

You can’t help but wonder if HarperCollins wishes the ABA, BN, and Authors Guild etc would stop protesting the settlement of a very expensive lawsuit for HC.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

19 Comments

  1. Annemarie
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 06:18:42

    “The ones that ereaders – the people, not the device – favour are less adventurous, more predictable, and inevitably sit in the middle of popular genres.”

    I’ve had the opposite experience. I read a lot of Canadian “literature” and I’ve never had the same experience I do with genre fiction. Perhaps it’s just the bare-bones narrative style I prefer, but I don’t constantly feel the need to flip back through the pages to refresh my memory on this character or this event in the way I do with a lot of genre fiction. I burned through Lynn Coady’s “The Antagonist” in days on my ereader. This is a book that constantly jumps back and forth in time with a main character who is constantly wandering off into observations and commentary, but it flowed. Reading this book in digital format didn’t make the experience any less enriching for me as a reader.

    There are some genres that are impossible to get through with an ereader. The backstory or world-building is so complex I need to be able to flip back for a refresher.

    To be honest, digital books brought me back to literature after five years. I’m reading more of it now than I ever did, since ebooks are generally cheaper than even used softcovers.

  2. Courtney Milan
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 07:13:17

    So I went to read David Hewson’s article, because it’s my experience that people who say things like “literary fiction isn’t made for ebooks!” usually have no reasons to back up the assertion except the sweet sound of crickets.

    Imagine my surprise when he had an actual reason!

    Here it is: He published two books from his backlist to Kindle. One was more literary. One was more genre. The genre book sells better. (Also, I notice that one of the books in question was published less than a month ago.)

    *head desk*

    He didn’t even try the reverse strategy: publishing both books to POD and seeing which sold better in print.

    There are millions of reasons why books sell or fail to sell. I don’t think it’s an accident that his better-selling book has a cleaner cover in thumbnail. I don’t think it’s an accident that you can actually read what the book is about on the better-selling book, while the other one has so much praise in front of the description that it gets hidden by Amazon.

    (Even if it is the better-selling book–plenty of books out there don’t find their sales velocity, or lack thereof, for months.)

    If you look at the best sellers list for literary fiction, book #100 is #1999 in the Kindle store. If you look at the best sellers list for science fiction, book #100 is #3316 in the Kindle store. For romance, it’s #341. For mystery, it’s #423. For fantasy, it’s #1728, and horror it’s #4772. These numbers will shift as time goes on, of course, but in my experience, they tend to be relatively stable within, say, plus or minus 20%.

    Yes, the top-selling books in the store are romance and mystery. But (a) there are more such books produced, and so naturally you’ll have more books in the top, and (b) it isn’t the nature of genre versus lit fic, since some genres don’t do as well as literary fiction.

    What I’m hearing is this: “I’m unhappy with my sales, so it must be some deficiency on the part of my customers.” Dude. No.

  3. Laura Florand
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 07:51:17

    “The challenge for those of us who care about quality is going to be to find the texture, resonance and depth of ‘literature’ — whatever that is — within the tight strictures of an undeviating narrative shorn of anything the average reader might regard as ‘art’.”

    Good luck to him figuring it out, with that attitude. :)

    Luckily for the rest of us, there are many, many authors who have risen to the challenge of finding texture, resonance, and depth of literature within the, er, “strictures” of a classic narrative form.

  4. Isabel C.
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 08:16:36

    @Courtney Milan: I agree–and, for that matter, I was always under the impression that the top selling books in most brick-and-mortar stores were romance and mystery, with horror and thrillers edging in and out depending on whether the big names like King and Clancy had anything new.

    As far as reading habits go, the pearl-clutching makes a lot of assumptions, as per Annemarie’s comment. I myself don’t actually read a lot of “literary fiction”*, but I read a lot of the classics on Project Gutenberg, and I think I did okay by them; I also read a lot of Stephen King books on really awful early e-readers, and while I was admittedly re-reading a lot, I did okay. (Also, “…even Stephen King?” Shut your condescension-hole, Hewson.) Sometimes I prefer the physical format because there are fewer distractions (I only have the desktop e-readers at the moment) or because I like to read in the bath/while eating spaghetti/etc. Sometimes I like ebooks better (you can read them at work and hide them behind spreadsheets when the boss comes by…hypotheeeeetically). Either way, I don’t think they affect my purchasing decisions.

    *I’m not unilaterally opposed, but I want a recommendation from a trusted source saying that any given book is not a soul-rending exploration of man’s twenty-first century ennui in the context of existentialism, has characters who do things competently rather than gazing at their navels, and does not end with everyone dying or getting addicted to heroin or whatever. Majoring in English has left me a little jaded about that whole field.

  5. Isobel Carr
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 08:52:50

    I love (yes that’s sarcasm) all the loaded words in the Hewson piece. Genre is less adventurous, more predictable, and has an undeviating narrative shorn of anything the average reader might regard as ‘art’. Literary fiction is complex and lengthy, interesting, innovative and revolutionary, and has texture, resonance and depth. Honestly? Has he read any genre fiction? I’m guessing not. Because anyone who says the works of genre writers like Guy Gavriel Kay, George R.R. Martian, P.C. Hodgell, Neil Gaiman, C. H. Harris, Sherry Thomas, Julia Ross, Pam Rosenthal, and plethora of others, are “shorn of anything the average reader might regard as ‘art’” is an under-read cretin. Or perhaps, and here I’m taking my hint by his mentioning King as also not suited to eBook reading, he is one of those people who instantly decides that anything he values or likes is instantly elevated from genre? Regardless, he sounds like douchenozzle (and I say that as someone who comes from the Ivory Tower of MFA).

  6. becca
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 10:33:09

    “shorn of anything the average reader might regard as ‘art’”

    maybe he means that it comes across to the average reader as pretentious?

  7. Darlynne
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 11:02:07

    Hewson’s comments about genre fiction are just strange, considering he writes books that are considered crime fiction. That’s like Sharyn McCrumb insisting she writes historical fiction, never mystery novels; like Elizabeth George saying she writes a police series set in England because of the richness of her language. Seriously, people, you need to get over yourselves. We great digital unwashed read your books–or not–because we like them, not because you think they are works of art, worthy only of the finest vellum.

  8. Anne
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 11:19:56

    He has a point up to a point. I prefer the hard copy over the ebook variant every time I can get it the same price or cheaper than the digital variant. Always. There’s a haptic pleasure in reading a printed book and unlike the majority of ebooks they don’t have a DRM slapped onto them. No one can simply discontinue or retract my “copy” and no one can tell me who I may lend it to, how often or for what money (or not). No one can tell me I can’t re-sell it.

    Yes, it also reads easier when you have to flip back. At the end of the day I still prefer the hard copy. He also has a point in that a lot of what is published recently – especially within genre-writing – is not exactly readworthy.

  9. Lil
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 11:24:34

    Okay, you can all jump on me, but I have read Mr. Hewson’s article and I think he has a point. It isn’t about genre vs. literary fiction or about sales. It’s about complexity.

    We all know that some genre books are more complex than others, just as some “literary” ones are. That is not an insult. Some readers like complexity. Some don’t. Some readers like complexity some of the time but not all of the time. None of these points are insults.

    I have an ereader, and I use it frequently. I hope it never makes print obsolete because my experience with it is the one Mr. Hewson describes. I like it for light reading, for fluff, or for rereading old favorites. In other words, for books that don’t surprise. I don’t like it for complex books, and by that I do not mean nonlinear. I mean books that offer challenging thoughts, interesting ideas, etc.

    It’s quite possible that I am the oddball here, but I don’t see why people get so upset at the thought that ebooks may not be the perfect medium.

  10. Isabel C.
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 11:34:38

    @Darlynne: See also Terry Goodkind, and “I don’t write fantasy! I write about the Objectivist-I-mean-human condition! With dragons and wizards.” Ugh.

    @Lil: Oh, sure, I’m with you there. That may not be everyone’s experience, but it is some people’s, and that’s valid.

    It’s Hewson’s phrasing that makes it insulting. The conflation of “genre” with “non-complex,” the “…or *even* that horror guy, I *suppose*” condescension, and so on. There’s a point there, but it’s buried beneath a million layers of I Am Deep and Meaningful, You’re Not.

    Also, and I missed this the first time I read it: “I don’t say this in a judgmental way.” Then…don’t. “No offense, but you suck,” is a very sixth-grade girl way to go about saying something, Hewson.

  11. MrsJoseph
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 11:55:23

    @Anne:

    He has a point up to a point. I prefer the hard copy over the ebook variant every time I can get it the same price or cheaper than the digital variant. Always. There’s a haptic pleasure in reading a printed book and unlike the majority of ebooks they don’t have a DRM slapped onto them. No one can simply discontinue or retract my “copy” and no one can tell me who I may lend it to, how often or for what money (or not). No one can tell me I can’t re-sell it.

    Yes, it also reads easier when you have to flip back. At the end of the day I still prefer the hard copy. He also has a point in that a lot of what is published recently – especially within genre-writing – is not exactly readworthy.

    I’ve gotten to this point. It’s not that ereaders aren’t great (I have 2) it’s that they are restrictive, tracking me, and DRM is horrible. Add that to piss poor editing (quite 0ften by Trad Pubs), higher prices and multiple formats…

    The Ebook can go screw itself.

    I was an early ebook adopter. I read ebooks for years. The more I see SP authors acting like assholes and trad pubs giving me crap and screwing over libraries…the less I buy ebooks.

    I’ve purchased print only for the last 3 months (with the exception of favorites). I recently just read Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series. I bought all of them in print…including the anthologies.

  12. Sunita
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 11:56:07

    I am LOLing at Hewson’s complexity point because my first summer reading (free) ebooks on my Palm Pilot was the Summer of Alexandre Dumas (5 books in the 3 Musketeers series). I went on to Sabatini, I think. Those books are long and the plots are beyond convoluted. They are also written in 19thC language (I read them in translation on the Palm) and so they take some concentration.

    Everything is a tradeoff. I read Dumas on the Palm because it was way better than carrying around the big fat print volumes (and I had free access to those through my library).

    Hewson’s argument isn’t entirely wrong, but it’s so incomplete as to be almost useless.

  13. lucy
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 13:18:12

    Wow, that dude sounds pretentious. The only type of books that I can’t comfortably read in my Sony are my textbooks due to various reasons. So unless a literary fiction book has a bunch of complicated charts or something, I don’t see why I would pick print instead of digital.

  14. Janine
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 13:22:17

    Hitler killed my grandmother’s parents and sisters; he is not a laughing matter to me.

  15. JanL
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 14:28:12

    I get so tired of the genre fiction vs. literary fiction debate. I’ve read most of the classics and lots of literary fiction in past years. Now I read science fiction, fantasy, romance and mysteries almost exclusively. I read them because I like books with a satisfying ending, about relationships, or new concepts or ideas. I have so many authors whom I love to read in these genres. I come across books I don’t like or don’t finish for whatever reason, but that happened a lot more often with literary fiction.

    I finally broke down and bought an ebook reader almost two years ago and for over a year I haven’t bought any print books. I’ve occasionally gotten books at the library, because they were priced so high in the digital edition or it was a new author. I don’t usually read them though, because I love the experience of reading on the ebook. I search for words on the ebook if I want to look back at something or mark passages when I find something I like. I don’t mark in my print books so I always found it harder to find things when I read print books.

    I agree DRM, being unable to loan books easily or sell them or being tracked when I’m reading are things I’m not fond of. However, I love having a hundred books on my reader when I’m traveling, being able to easily buy a new book and easily carry a book of a 1,000+ pages on my ereader in my purse.

  16. Ridley
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 15:30:14

    @Lil:

    It’s quite possible that I am the oddball here, but I don’t see why people get so upset at the thought that ebooks may not be the perfect medium.

    That’s not what sets our eyes rolling. It’s that no one seems to be able to put together an argument for why ebooks aren’t perfect in every situation without making either ebooks or the books read as ebooks seem inferior.

  17. Nikki
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 16:17:37

    I am also wondering if this author also really looked. I as a reader am looking for some basic things. Length is crucial, the description, and the kindle sample. The cover can make me think, cheap, poorly edited, so I might not give the book a chance. So he can only really make a judgement if he released both books with high-quality covers, a good description, and a good sample, and waited for 6 months.

    I will note for myself, there are non-fiction and literary works that I would love to have on the kindle because if nothing else, they will be easier to read, especially while I am traveling or on the elliptical. I also prefer a longer book because it can get awkward with larger print books.

    And I would like him to read some of the authors I read and tell me their work is shorn of art. Please. Definitely off my ever-buy list.

  18. Kerry D.
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 19:06:07

    Why can’t we all just agree that we love reading, we all read books, and it doesn’t matter in what manner we consume them?

    It seemed this print vs ebook thing had died away for a while (or maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places) but it’s back again with a vengeance and it’s making me tired.

    Personally, I read on an ereader (or I did until it died on Tuesday which was a very sad day). I do if for preference, ease of buying (not being in the US) and also for health reasons. That’s good. That’s what works for me. If it’s not what works for someone else, they shouldn’t be putting my choices down. And vice versa.

  19. SAO
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 12:48:43

    Well, I’ll admit Literary fiction is easier to read in print. That’s because if I’m bored, I can skip forward and skim, which is harder to do on the Kindle. I’d have never waded through Fantzen’s latest on the Kindle. Or Wolf Hall. Which makes me think what Hewson calls ‘Art’ is really self-indulgent authorial navel gazing, and yes, I definitely want it shorn from the narrative I’m reading.

%d bloggers like this: