Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Cult of the Ebook With Guest Blogger Chris McKenna

Okay, I'll admit it. I was more than a little sceptical of ebooks at first. I'm not a big fan of reading on the computer – at least not anything longer than an article - and as convenient as my laptop is the thought of taking it out on the morning train, I have always found less than thrilling – doubly so when my machine seems to devour battery life like Charley Sheen in a crack house after a spell in rehab.

Then my life was saved.

The great gods of the arts sent down their saviour child. And lo she was called “Kindle”: Her saving energy! Her clarity! Like many, I soon became a convert. After all, who could resist such graces? With all the negatives gone, the world of the ebook was truly open to me.

But are Kindle and the other plethora of ebook prophets out there speaking the truth, or are they just another group of mad people shouting in the wilderness? Is the sudden rising of the ebook just a fad of fanaticism that will soon die out or will it develop in to full and lasting institution?

It seems few converts would be interested in going back to the old days – certainly as a writer I would not. I guess one big part of the revolution of the ebook has been not just the way it has changed the experience for the reader, but also the changes that it has enacted upon the publishing industry as a whole.  Few can deny the way that control has been, at least, partial wrestled from the big publishers, giving a range of small publishers and independent authors access to markets that were previously far out of their reach. I don't think anyone would doubt the growing number of indie writers that have carved out their own successes in a place where they were previously told there was: “no commercial interest” in their writing. Likewise, it's given the reader more choice, no more so than those interested in niche markets: Space Operas, BDSM, Christian literature are all thriving and even the most avid vampire reader would have to make a full time job of reading all the blood sucker books out there.

So all great right? - Well no.

As fast as the ebook market is growing, it's still a bit of cult and far from firmly established. There are more than a few orthodox readers who are less than willing to join the movement, but there are not really the problem - there will always be doubters. As with all such developments, the real danger comes from within: Poor formatted and poorly written books; fake reviews plastered all over the internet; mutual uber-star ratings from writing cliques; misleading blurbs and descriptions – just to name a few. And what's the end result of all this? Confusion, bitterness, loss of faith!

The old gate keepers are gone and they're left us with the keys.

As a reader there has been nothing more frustrating in for me than just trying to find a good book. Distrust has become the name of the game when it comes to reviews:
            All five stars– no!
            Reviews with comments on only one books – no!
            The same sycophantic writing on each – no!

And then at the same time you have to weed out the ever present hatters of everything that seem to linger on the “bottom of the internet”. It all just leaves you tired and wishing for the good old days when there were only have a dozen well known books to chose from.

So that the end of the then. The death of the ebook before it's really had a chance to make it's mark? - Again, probably not.

As will all new movements and religious there are going to be problems along the way and solutions will usually come along to sort it all out. I hear that in the first Vatican council they sorted out that tricky problem of castrates being allowed to be priests or not (NB: It's only okay if you didn't do it to yourself.) So we'll probably figure something out, whether that's the growing of more trusted review sites or well known reviewers – perhaps we'll all develop a prater natural ability to judge a book by its cover?

However it's dealt with, it clear that the cult of the ebook is still evolving - if we're allowed to believe in such a thing – and we're still in the early stages of development. To believe that things would or even could stay the same would be foolish at best. To believe that they couldn't get better would simply be to lack faith.


  1. Great post on ebooks. This is an evolving market to say the least.

  2. You are right on so many levels. I have to say, as a reader as well as a writer... there is always a chance of finding a poorly written story. But a trick I have learned is to pay attention to the epubs that I have purchased the good stories from. Usually those publishers try to keep their stories at a higher standard.

    Good article! I enjoyed it!

  3. Great post. I love my kindle. But without gatekeepers it's very hard to decide when the door's worth opening, or the book worth downloading. I like your advice Shiloh, and epub has increased the number of smaller gatekeepers.

  4. You are right. I have purchased a few ebooks that left me staring at the last page and scoffing "Well, that was a waste of time!" I do believe that higher standards will eventually be enforced and our Kindle's will never leave our side. Great article, thank you.