Sunday, 3 April 2011

Your Dreams in Digital

As Eileen can tell you all about, for the longest time I've been the Enemy of Freedom. You see, I love the smell of aged paper. I thrill at the idea of the "Slush Pile" - some editor or agent pulling an Indiana Jones through a jungle of perils to find one golden treasure. I like bookstores. I believe in the publishing industry. I even purchase literary magazines. As such, self-publishing and digital distribution have earned a lot of scoffing from me. Now, as of this blog posting I am forced to eat my words, and hang my head in shame.

You see, I bought a Nook.

The decision was mostly economical. The price of gas is high, and physical copies of books are more and more expensive, especially in hard-cover. Works more than a year or two old can even be very hard to find, as well as works from new authors without much media play even when released from respectable publishing houses.

But I wasn't happy about it.

Until I used the damned thing.

The product is absolutely wonderful, and at risk of sounding like a promotions bitch I'd like to say why. The NookColor is a fully functional Android tablet with all the nifty features that go with that. While it doesn't have access to the Android marketplace, it will soon be getting a better filtered marketplace tailored for the devices capabilities and purpose. As it stands you can access the internet via a browser and listen to Pandora through a pre-loaded application. It has eight gigabytes of on-board memory and accepts up to 32 gb of expansion via a MicroSD slot. That's a LOT of books. It also means you're not limited to what's available in the Store. Anything you can convert to e-pub format you can load onto this thing. But wait there's more! It also opens any Microsoft Office document which makes it a useful tool for writers and editors, and on top of all this - it's just fucking pleasant to read.

But what really stabbed my firmly held beliefs in the guts was how easily I found copies of Eileen and Laura's recently self-published books. Then I noticed how many of the B&N Store's recommendations for me were items offered for free via SmashWords.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm still a big fan of traditional publishing. I like to know there's filters between an author's pen and my sensitive eyes. What I see here, however, is opportunity for a writer to release less marketable work and still be easily obtained.

Let me expound on the point. Novellas are traditionally very hard sells. Traditional publishers consider them too short to bother with. Literary magazines have very little room for them in their line-up. [Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine has a corner on these suckers with upwards of six a year. SIX.]

But I could go through my usual channels, and create a good product and release it in digital format for three dollars and you could have that novella. With a Nook or other e-reader, you could have it, hold it, love it.

I don't think anyone will ever get rich off of self-publishing or exclusive digital distribution [those crazy Japanese and their Cell Phone novels aside.] I still scoff at the idea of offering something I've worked on as much as my full-time job for absolutely free. [And don't give me any crap about libraries. Use and appreciate them, because they're in debt. They pay for every one of those books and often at mint for "lender copies" and hope to make up that cost in late fees. They usually end up selling at loss ten years down the line for 25 cents to make room for newer books.]

But maybe, just maybe, I can admit that this might be a positive development for struggling writers everywhere. Here's your shot guys, make it work.

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