Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Changing my reading habits

I have a problem. The house I share with my husband, two cats and two dogs, is too small for all the books we own. It got so bad a few years ago we had to sell our cottage and move into a bigger place. I’m not kidding. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but we do own far too many books, many of which we’ll probably never read but own for the sake of having the title.

To say that I love books is an understatement. But it’s not so much for holding paper in my hands, it’s about reading the story and the easier it is for me to access the story, the better. That’s why I absolutely love electronic formats. It’s easy to get to the last page I was reading and, the other bonus: electronic files don’t take up a lot of space or constitute a fire hazard. I keep a few ebooks on my hard drive at work so I can read during down-time. I keep ebooks on my netbook, so I can read when I’m hanging around my husband’s photo- and film shoots. That’s when I’m not busy editing and writing, of course. Or mopping up the fake blood, for that matter (not kidding on that one).

There will always be “keepers” as I call them, that I absolutely must own in physical form but I’ve found over the years that reading physical, as in “that rectangular object with paper pages in it” becoming more and more difficult. I like being able to zoom in on text, scroll down or press a button to get to the next page. So, I keep a few “paper” books in my backpack and try to read on the train in the afternoons. I find, however, that it’s taking me longer to read physical books than their electronic counterparts.

But this shift to electronic publishing has gotten me thinking. I buy most of my physical books second hand. This means the author doesn’t get paid royalties for this sale. Some books, if looked after, change hands several times, the sellers often making a tidy profit, none of which goes to the authors.

As someone who is passionate about writing, I’d like to show my support to authors and what better way than now, with ebooks? Yes, the publishing industry is changing, and not all of us can afford to buy new books in print, which means in the old days, it was difficult to pay tribute to favourite authors. This is changing now. And more of my favourite authors’ writing is coming available electronically. I have an opportunity to thank them for the hours of enjoyment they’ve given me. The other benefit: no stressing about a package getting lost in the mail, and no postage fees. Instant delivery instead. Instant gratification.

This is not going to be a rant about how bad piracy of electronic books is. But think of it this way. An author has written a story they are in a position to share with you. You wouldn’t go to a music concert and slip in through a back door to skiv off paying the performers, would you? In the same way, we can show our support to authors by buying their books electronically. The benefits? You’re saving trees. You’re supporting creative people. There are fewer middlemen and more of the money goes to the person who deserves it, your favourite author who, I can guarantee, often slaves away for many hours crafting his or her words so you can have hours of enjoyment.

Think of yourself as being a patron of the arts, like in the olden times when musicians and artists were often attached to noble houses. By becoming a patron of the arts and supporting creatives, be they musicians, authors or artists, you are bringing more beauty into the world by helping these people pay their bills.

Don’t forget also the people behind the scenes: the publisher and his or her team of dedicated professionals—cover artists, technical support and editors. These folks deserve to be thanked for the often unnoticed support they offer authors so you can carry on reading the latest fiction. They are the quality control so neccessary in this industry where the world and his wife can claim to be published.

Things are definitely shifting in authors’ favour with the advent of the smaller presses, and what better way to feel warm and fuzzy knowing your favourite author has a roof over her head, a shiny computer that works and some nommy biscuits to feed her muse?


Sandra Sookoo said...

Terrific post! Ever since I got my e-reader last Christmas, I exclusively support e-published authors. Do I buy the big hitters and best sellers on the NY Times list? Nope. I put my money on small presses and my author friends. It's my way of giving back to this industry and hoping others will do the same for me :-)

Nerine Dorman said...

Couldn't agree more, Sandra.