Bookbanter Column: Diary of an Ereader, Part One: An Introduction

In the latter months of 2012 I joined a quickly growing population that just five years ago barely existed: I got myself an ereader.

As a writer and reviewer for well over a decade, I definitely got the sense — especially when I was a bookseller for Borders handselling ereaders — that there was this great flowing train of technology shooting by me, as everyone seemed to be getting and using ereaders, with new upgraded versions coming out every six months, and then the iPad arrived which was just better than anything else.

And there I was standing at the station, watching this train with all these new passengers getting on, but I didn’t have a ticket to this ereader train because it was too expensive.

I’m very much a hardcover or paperback or even mass market kind of guy.

I like the feel of a real book, be it a brand new hardcover that cracks open as you open it for the first time with that fresh smell.

[CONTINUE READING . . .]

Bookbanter Column: Diary of an Ereader, Part One: An Introduction

In the latter months of 2012 I joined a quickly growing population that just five years ago barely existed: I got myself an ereader.

I like the feel of a real book, be it a brand new hardcover that cracks open as you open it for the first time with that fresh smell.

Really?

  1. Printed books sales, both hardcover and paperback, had one of their best selling seasons in years.
  2. Nook ereader sales were terrible and way down.

A lot of people still like printed books.  A lot of people are still going to keep buying printed books.

And if they did stop making printed books tomorrow, the industry of used books would still continue to live on alive and well for a long time until every used book was but a shattered binding of crumbling pages.

And, as I began this column, admit that I now own an ereader, a Kobo Glo in fact, and have a number of books I am reviewing on there (which I will discuss in Part Two of this series).

I enjoy ereading very much, I like the portability, ease of use, being able to do things like eat at the same time and just use a finger swipe to turn the page instead of having to jam a book open with one hand and fumble with a sandwich in the other.

There is the additional advantage of being able to download books and start reading right away, instead of having to wait for a delivery.  And with the Kobo Glo, the added ease of being able to read in the dark with the ereader light turned on.

And yet, for all the advantages that ereaders present to readers in making reading easier, more efficient, more optimal, more simplified; giving you the most out of your reading with the littlest effort on the part of the reader, it hasn’t replaced my print book reading by any means.

After enjoying the frivolities of ereading for over four months, I still read at least two to three print books to every ebook I read.  I generally use my ereader on my lunches at work, or when I have a short period of time to do some quick reading, but it in no way replaces sitting down in a comfortable chair with a real book in my hands to read.

I can tell this specific dueling between print books and ebooks will be something I will continue to discuss in this “Diary of an Ereader” series, and one could make the claim that perhaps in some years time I may switch over to reading ebooks more.  I cannot predict the future, but at the moment I’m perfectly satisfied with my ereader, and enjoy ereading on it, but it still doesn’t beat the glossy texture of a dust-jacket, the rough shushing of the pages, and the unique smell of the printed word on the paper page.

Originally published on Forces of Geek.

Bookbanter Column: Goodreads and Amazon Living Together . . . Mass Hysteria!

On Thursday, March 28th, it was announced that Amazon is buying the popular social networking and book review site, Goodreads.  Founded in 2007, it now has more than 16 million members, and will logically serve as an advantageous addition to the growing Amazon juggernaut.

On the Goodreads blog, the CEO and co-founder Otis Chandler said the site “will continue to be the wonderful community that we all cherish.  We plan to continue offering you everything that you love about the site – the ability to track what you read, discover great books, discuss and share them with fellow book lovers, and connect directly with your favorite authors – and your reviews and ratings will remain here on Goodreads.  And it’s incredibly important to us that we remain a home for all types of readers, no matter if you read on paper, audio, digitally, from scrolls, or even stone tablets.”

Unsurprisingly, reactions from various types of people in the book industry were both visceral and volatile.  There was shock from many on Facebook and Twitter, and lots of vocal disappointment.

Many announced that they had instantly cancelled their Goodreads accounts, and I wonder now how many have since renounced their love of Goodreads and how much that 16 million-member number has dropped.

[CONTINUE READING . . .]

Bookbanter Column: Goodreads and Amazon Living Together . . . Mass Hysteria!

On Thursday, March 28th, it was announced that Amazon is buying the popular social networking and book review site, Goodreads.  Founded in 2007, it now has more than 16 million members, and will logically serve as an advantageous addition to the growing Amazon juggernaut.

On the Goodreads blog, the CEO and co-founder Otis Chandler said the site “will continue to be the wonderful community that we all cherish.  We plan to continue offering you everything that you love about the site – the ability to track what you read, discover great books, discuss and share them with fellow book lovers, and connect directly with your favorite authors – and your reviews and ratings will remain here on Goodreads.  And it’s incredibly important to us that we remain a home for all types of readers, no matter if you read on paper, audio, digitally, from scrolls, or even stone tablets.”

Unsurprisingly, reactions from various types of people in the book industry were both visceral and volatile.  There was shock from many on Facebook and Twitter, and lots of vocal disappointment.

Many announced that they had instantly cancelled their Goodreads accounts, and I wonder now how many have since renounced their love of Goodreads and how much that 16 million-member number has dropped.

What is perhaps most hurtful about this merging is the Goodreads CEO said, “We could not think of a more perfect partner for Goodreads as we both share a love of books and appreciation for the authors who write them.”  Chandler makes it sound like Goodreads had many different groups coming to them with hopes of working together.  Amazon may be a place where one can buy books and see what people think and have to say about them, but “love of books” and “appreciation for the authors who write them.”

Yeah, that’s not what I think of when I think of Amazon.

On his blog, Jarek Steele of Left Bank Books had this to say: “Really Goodreads?  You’ve forsaken all the other opportunities to partner with independent bookstores, Kobo, even Barnes & Noble and the Nook?  How about iPad?  Also, who at Amazon has a love of books and authors?”

I’ve been an avid book reviewer for over a decade now, and have my reviews up on a number of sites online: my website, The Sacramento Book Review, and Amazon.  In November of 2007 I learned about this new site and community called Goodreads.  I now have 683 book reviews up on Goodreads, have rated 992 books, and have 2,759 friends.  I have also listed my self-published books on there and received reviews, as well as interacting with the readers.

About every three months or so, I will spend time uploading all my new reviews to Goodreads and Amazon.  Over the years I have been doing this, I continue to receive comments from readers on the review, whether they liked the book, as well as other thoughts and discussions.  What is interesting about this is that while I have not conducted a physical survey to prove it, I have discovered a couple of interesting things about posting my reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

  • Goodreads seems to have more commenters on book reviews, giving thoughts and ideas about both the book and review; there is more interaction and discussion involved.  As compared to Amazon where comments are rare and terse.
  • Goodreads comments tend to be polite and complimentary, while Amazon comments are invariably angry, spiteful, and mean spirited.  I would estimate that this is true for over 95% of my reviews.  I can think of hundreds of positive and interesting comments I have received on Goodreads, with only a few negative ones.  While on Amazon, I have received a number of acceptable and appreciative comments, but far more negative, reactionary comments that seem either unfounded or unnecessary.  It’s a review of a book; it’s one person’s opinion.  And yet apparently this really gets to the types of people who hang around and troll on Amazon.

I am certainly not happy about this news of Amazon acquiring Goodreads, but I also don’t know what it will mean in the future for Goodreads.  Will it become one entity with Amazon and just one place for reviews?  If so, what does that mean about the thoughtful commenting and engaging discussion I’m used to with Goodreads?  Will this die away, or will it fight against those other types of commenters on Amazon?  Or will there be some strange, peaceful coexistence?

It’s just one of those things that only time will tell.  The good thing about the Internet and those 16 or so million members of Goodreads is that if Amazon does something really stupid to change or mess up Goodreads, you know us 16 million strong are going to be on the offensive against Amazon, and that’s a lot of pissed off vocal people.

Originally published on Forces of Geek.

Bookbanter Column: Remembering James Herbert

There are probably not too many people familiar with James Herbert, who was the equivalent of Stephen King in Britain: a huge bestselling horror author.  He started from simple beginnings, as many writers do: he studied graphic design, print and photography and then worked at an advertising agency.

Then, in the early seventies, in just ten months, he wrote his first book, called The Rats.

The Rats is a horror novel set in London that brilliantly catches the feeling of the city at that time in the early part of the decade, and is about very ordinary people with very ordinary lives.

But then a new mutant form of rat evolves that grows to be the size of some small dogs. And these rats soon develop a hunger for human flesh and begin their attack on London, mercilessly killing.

It’s up to the people of London — at least those still alive who haven’t fled — to save the city and its survivors from these terrifying, giant, blood-thirsty rats.

The short novel sold 100,000 copies in three weeks and was later adapted into a movie. It would go on to be one of Herbert’s bestselling and most known books, much like with Stephen King and his debut novel (also short), Carrie.

[CONTINUE READING . . .]

Bookbanter Column: Remembering James Herbert

There are probably not too many people familiar with James Herbert, who was the equivalent of Stephen King in Britain: a huge bestselling horror author.  He started from simple beginnings, as many writers do: he studied graphic design, print and photography and then worked at an advertising agency.

Then, in the early seventies, in just ten months, he wrote his first book, called The Rats.

The Rats is a horror novel set in London that brilliantly catches the feeling of the city at that time in the early part of the decade, and is about very ordinary people with very ordinary lives.

But then a new mutant form of rat evolves that grows to be the size of some small dogs. And these rats soon develop a hunger for human flesh and begin their attack on London, mercilessly killing.

It’s up to the people of London — at least those still alive who haven’t fled — to save the city and its survivors from these terrifying, giant, blood-thirsty rats.

The short novel sold 100,000 copies in three weeks and was later adapted into a movie. It would go on to be one of Herbert’s bestselling and most known books, much like with Stephen King and his debut novel (also short), Carrie.

Herbert wrote twenty-three novels over his career and sold fifty-four million copies around the world.

Herbert’s talents as a horror writer were in that he wrote about the things that terrify many people, or even things that are mildly scary that he turned into something horrifying. Some of these books include The Dark, which was literally about an approaching darkness that could kill you; and The Fog. 

Again, there is another similarity with Stephen King, who wrote the short story The Mist. And much like Stephen King, James Herbert would always use ordinary, non-superhero people with normal jobs in a setting and story that would push them to go way beyond their average lives.

Herbert also had a talent for the ghost story and the tale of the haunted house. A number of his novels were on this subject, including: Haunted, The Ghost’s of Sleath, Others, The Secret of Crickley Hall, and his last published novel, Ash, featuring a returning parapsychologist character of the same name.

Occasionally, Herbert would try something completely different, like he did with Fluke, a book written entirely from the perspective of a dog.

Of course, with the continuing success of The Rats, he would also go on to write two sequels: The Lair, which brings new untold horrors of giant killer rats, this time going outside of London; and Domain, set in a future London where there has been nuclear war, and some people have survived, as well as the aforementioned giant killer rats.

Now, with his passing on March 20, 2013, the world has lost a great storyteller, who could take you to the edge of the darkness and beyond, but then bring you back at the end, nice and safe. Though, as is the case these days with prominent authors dying, I’m sure he has another book or two sitting around that he wrote earlier in his career, or was currently working on that will get completed by someone, and eventually published.

Originally published on Forces of Geek.

Bookbanter Column: Brandon Sanderson: The Hardest Working Writer I Know

Writing books isn’t easy; anyone who tells you otherwise either hasn’t done it, or is an idiot because they haven’t actually done it.

And when an author gets published and fully begins their publishing career, things don’t get a lot easier.

Yes, if one is making enough money, one is able quit their day job and write full time, which sounds wonderful.

But it’s also a lot of hard work, from sitting down and doing all the actual writing, to the editing and revising, then meeting with agents and editors and further revising, then copyediting and proof reading, then publication and all the PR associated with it, then the book tour, and during the publication and PR of the published novel, the author is already working on the next novel.

[CONTINUE READING . . .]

For more Bookbanter columns, click here.