Liars Club

To E, or Not to E?

by Jon McGoran on December 17, 2010

in Advice for Writers,The Writing Life

Burning Question: Will ebooks help or hurt writers and novels?

Things change.  Lately, they change a lot.  Over the past few years, the publishing industry has been transformed several times over — culturally, economically, and, yes, technologically.

It remains to be seen what effect E-books will have on the novel as an art form. There are inarguable downsides to them, like the impact they are having on book stores. Writers love bookstores — not just because they are full of books, but because they are populated by book sellers and book buyers, our two favorite types of people (other writers are a distant third…). Take away the bookstores and you are not only doing away with some of our most treasured institutions — and eliminating the livelihoods of our most treasured people — but you are also taking away some of the most important advocates a writer has. And frankly, there aren’t a whole lot of people left in our corner.

But e-books have upsides as well, and as a writer, one stands out in particular. At a recent mystery conference, I had a revelatory experience with an avid group of fans in attendance with their e-readers. Throughout the weekend, each time they encountered a new writer whose pitch or spiel (or face!) they liked, they would announce, “I just bought your book.” And they hadn’t just purchased it, they already possessed it. The deal was sealed, the goods were delivered, and they could start reading.

That’s compelling.

Writers spend a lot of time wondering what benefit they are getting from all the time they spend on personal appearances and local radio and guest blogs and social media and all the other shameless self promotion they do during time they could otherwise be writing (or sleeping or spending time with their families). E-books may very well change that calculation by making on-the-spot impulse purchases that much easier. And any medium that helps remove the obstacles between a reader thinking, “That sounds like an interesting book,” and a reader actually buying that book, well, it can’t be all bad.

Jon McGoran writes gritty and humorous thrillers under the pen name of D.H. Dublin.  His titles include Freezer Burn, Body Trace and Blood Poison, all published by Berkley. You can buy one immediately!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan McGoran December 17, 2010 at 10:35 am

Just heard a brief but fascinating interview with Stephen King on NPR about how e-readers will be able to monitor reader habits — such as what page a reader stops reading — and relay that as marketing information that could be used to drive editing of content. Chilling, but intriguing.

Simmons December 20, 2010 at 10:57 am

And coming soon . . . we will be able to monitor their heartbeat, so we know if a particularly thrilling section of our book is actually thrilling.

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