And what do we, the book-buying public, want? Cheaper prices, as ever, but we’re also all expecting books to move beyond dead text and into something much more dynamic, something loaded with rich media, something that makes use of the color and graphics of our tablet screens, and perhaps the social networking powers they also sport as apps. Because those kinds of books sure as heck aren’t in Amazon’s top-selling Kindle list right now.
This summary, which concludes a recent Fast Company article about e-book publishing, doesn’t represent me. Does it you?
As someone who buys books by the boatload and reads both nonfiction and fiction voraciously, I’m not particularly interested in “rich media.” As one commentator on this article pointed out:
“Reading is an intensely personal experience. It is not a social experience unless someone is reading to me. And if I wanted that I’d get an audio book.”
I agree. My mind and imagination are all I need when reading a book, thank you very much. All that multi-media stuff is fine for e-learning courses and suchlike but when I’m reading, I want peace and quiet to really think about what I’m taking in.
One thing I’m noticing that’s continually absent from these discussions about what the buying public wants from books (electronic or otherwise) is any mention of quality content. Do we simply take it for granted that every book — and here I’m talking about my specialism of nonfiction — has been well constructed, well written, and contributes something meaningful and valuable to the conversation? That’s not been my experience.
Amazon is redefining publishing, but not in a way I particularly welcome. Commercial publishers may be criticized for failing to innovate…but most people in that industry were in that business because they loved books. What does Amazon love?
I, for one, will forgo cheaper prices for better quality content. That was the beauty of the commercial publishing model years ago before the era of the celebrity airhead author and internet marketing old boys’ network began to seduce publishing houses with the guarantee of mega-sales and big bucks. When you saw the little Penguin on the front cover or spine — or any of the other symbols of the major publishing houses — you could be guaranteed quality: from the development of the core concept, to the writing, to the editing.
Now, you’re never sure what you’re getting when you buy a book from Amazon, because with so many self-published authors rallying their friends and family to write bogus 5 star reviews (and in some cases offering inducements to strangers in exchange for glowing testimonials), you can’t even trust the market to give an honest appraisal.
By my bedside I have Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, which I bought from Barnes & Noble, paying something like $25 (the RSP is $30). My experience of reading that book has been priceless as it’s generated many new thoughts and directions for my business.
So maybe it’s fine for “cheap prices” to be the top criteria for fiction. But, please, not for nonfiction. When a thoughtful author takes the time and effort (involving much more than the “write a book in a weekend” hucksters would have you believe) to craft a book with the potential to change your life — don’t they deserve to be rewarded for that? At least when writers are working with industry professionals (as opposed to most self-published authors who do everything themselves) the result is the coalescing of many expert minds and perspectives, which makes for a superior product.
Well, that’s what those of us who LOVE books think, anyway 🙂 How about you?