E-Books Are For Porn

Can’t wait to see what kind of searches lead people here with that title!

Yesterday, an article in the Telegraph caused a bit of a kerfuffle when Joan Brady, an award-winning literary author, said e-books are ‘worthless’.

And Brady didn’t stop there.  She went on to claim that ‘once an e-book has been bought, it is “more worthless than used toilet paper, which can at least end up as compost”’.

Well. That’s us told, then! I’d love to ask Brady if she feels this way, why is she allowing her new novel to be released as an e-book?

And even more, I’d like to know why such archaic attitudes still exist on our Fair Isle, and why authors of all people — who should be embracing this change, in my opinion — are proponents of the ‘e-books are evil’ attitude.

Just like the bloke who wanted to ban Kindles from a leading literary festival, such backward-thinking individuals are easy to brush off by saying they just want their five minutes of fame. However, although they’re in the minority, less extreme examples of their attitude still exist in the industry on this side of the Atlantic.

What I’d like to know is this: is it different in America, where the market is roughly two years ahead of the UK? Are e-books now considered equal with print? Do major newspapers carry such ridiculous articles as the one I’ve cited?

How have you seen attitudes change?

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Comments

  1. Talli,
    I love the question you’ve posed as it’s one that I’ve been pondering myself. Two of the most progressive sites I’ve come across viz ePub and self-pub have been USA based ( Wise Ink & Duo-lit)

    In fact the most positive vibes I get about the format come from the USA too. I am bummed that Amazon.com offer the Author programme for US published titles but that we don’t have that in the UK.

    I recently participated in an online chat that included an Amazon fella and passed on my disappointment about that. I wish the UK industry was as enthusiastic, but as a nation I don’t think we’re that great with change.

    I would never want print to die out. When Gunshot Glitter is printed I am going to hug it to my bosom and cuddle it until the pages protest, but I am well aware that my novel will have a wider reach as an ePub and be more accessible in a world so in love with technology. That to me is no bad thing as an author.

    I think because you cannot physically turn pages and a novel exists alongside a pile of other files on a reader, you cannot have that tactile relationship that you would have as a book. Much as I can’t love a digital download of a song as I would a record/CD – but that’s a format issue, it’s not a reflection of the song and the story carried inside.

    Yasmin x

    • Talli Roland says:

      Yasmin, Amazon UK does offer Author Central, but there aren’t as many features available. Is that what you meant?

      I think print will always be around too, in specialised formats. I hope the UK will eventually accept the changes, but it does seem to have more resistance to what’s happening than the US (based solely on my own observations).

      • I think if you publish in the USA and have a ‘free’ day with your Kindle books you get paid per free download but that doesn’t happen if you do the same in the UK. That was what I understood viz the Author prog with Amazon.com. I sat in on a discussion online and was told that. I would love it the UK offered us that too. If I’ve got any of that wrong I’m happy to be corrected.

        Your observations viz UK/USA, I agree with, the vibe in the USA is more entrepreneurial I think and that’s just going by the sites and people I’ve met virtually on Twitter!

  2. I posted this article on my Facebook wall and got this reply from a friend: “This woman has clearly never ridden the metro. Pretty sure paper books are not viewed as anything other than what the “less fortunate” carry these days. Even if you’re reading porn while judging them.”

    The metro is the DC subway, btw, and I think this comment sums it up pretty well.

    I do think the UK will catch up, but there’s such a traditionalist mentality here which is embraced by the establishment. The publishing industry here is VERY much a part of that establishment.

    It’s the irrelevant, tweed-wearing, fox-hunting crowd. I just ignore them and keep on selling by books. =) Granted, I do sell a TON more in the States than here at home, but that’s the beauty of the global marketplace.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Love the comment about the DC Metro! On the Tube, I do still see a lot of paperbacks, but there are also a lot more e-readers than there used to be. I’m hoping it will continue to increase.

      • D.D. Scott says:

        Question (and I’m not joking here :-) ):

        If Will and Kate would be seen with an Ereader would that sort of thing have a huge impact in the UK?

        • Talli Roland says:

          DD, I think it probably would! As soon as Kate wears something from the high street, it immediately sells out. If either one were seen with a Kindle, I’m sure it would have an impact!

          Hmm… *plots*

    • I was just going to make a similar comment about riding the train in CA. I’d say 90% of people riding the Coast Starlight between LA and SF on Memorial Day weekend were reading on Kindles or tablets or laptops and the few people with paper books or magazines looked sort of forlorn.

      Interesting question from DD. Would the royals help bring the UK into the e-age?

      • Talli Roland says:

        Anne, interesting! It’s not quite to that level here – nowhere near. I’d say ereaders are definitely in the minority so far.

        And I really do think one of the royals holding an ereader would give it a massive boost.

        • D.D. Scott says:

          Talli, if you can let me know how to “gift” Will and Kate, I’ll do it from The WG2E!!! Who knows if they’ll ever receive them, but it’s certainly worth a try!!!

          We could compose a letter to go with them in which we list all of our WG2E-Land Peeps and invite them to download our books!

          I know their rules are very strict regarding “gifts”, and in many cases, they are not allowed to accept items for Free or even at discounts, but I do think there are certain ways around that. For example, perhaps we could donate Ereaders to one of their favorite charities, which might interest them in trying them out themselves!

          This could be a HUGE boost for all of us and a wonderful way to Pay It Forward!!!

  3. Lois Lavrisa says:

    Talli- I believe a great majority of the US haves embraced ebooks. There will always be those who prefer the feel of a paper book, some that like both, and a whole generation who will only go to e books first. My college daughter actually likes paper books for studying and school texts while she gets all of her non college related reading on e books. So to each their own, right? I just love that we have choices:) Great post!

  4. Oh God. Not this old bone of contention yet again?! It’s the same old Brit *literary* author snipe as heard so many times before only this time e-books are set up for target practise. In the old days it was cheap paperbacks that were slighted as being mere toilet paper. But of course Penguin, at that time, went for page-turning fast reads. Agatha Christie etc.

    I love a good literary novel, but it pisses me off when poachers turn gamekeepers. By that I mean any author whom slights something in public yet embraces it and reaps said reward. In effect this author is playing the media game. She’s making noise, which gets her known to those who’ve never heard of her (I hadn’t). Worse, she’s implying she thoroughly disapproves of being listed alongside authors of lesser merit!!

    Okay, let’s look at literary novels as a whole. In truth there are two levels of reading within the literary sphere: page-turning reads and yawn yawn reads: far more of the latter than the former. Literary novelists are far more likely to be nominated for the *worst sex (scene) award*. I rest my case….

    best
    F

    • Talli Roland says:

      I hear you, Francine! In fact, I thought the same thing: old debate, new target. Instead of cheap paperbacks, e-books have stepped in. Sigh! I like a good literary novel, too, but I hate that authors feel the need to slate other genres.

    • JF Brown says:

      I find it interesting, and ironic, that the 19th Century “literary” authors so admired now were basically pulp fiction writers. I’m talking Dickens, Hugo, Verne, Poe, et al. Their works were written for, and serialized by, periodicals. Note that their novels have very obvious “cliffhangers” to ensure their mass-market readers bought the next issue to find out what happened.

      The intervening decades have blurred the reality of what those authors were about: writing page-turning, fast-action popular fiction that was interesting to read. And made oodles of money. The snooty contemporary “literary fiction” adherents are simply self-posturing their self-absorbed biases for all the world to see.

  5. Rebecca Emin says:

    I think Ms Brady needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

    My books for 10-14 year olds have sold far more copies on Kindle and via Smashwords than they have in paperback. My 9 year old daughter and 7 year old son tell me how their friends have their own Kindles and iPods. My 5 year old son refers to my own Kindle as, “your book”. My favourite phrase so far being, “Oh, you’ve plugged your book in to charge again”.

    Certain people may wish to stick their heads in the sand about the digital age. Certain people (even me) may continue to prefer paperbacks. But my Kindle is now stuffed full of books. Despite my earlier reservations about it – I am now a frequent reader of ebooks of many different genres. And I know I’m not alone.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Love that your five-year-old refers to your Kindle as your book, Rebecca. I’m hoping the younger generation will adapt and accept e-books as just another way to deliver content. It does seems to be happening slower than in the US, though.

  6. D.D. Scott says:

    The attitudes of Readers have changed in that they’re embracing Ebooks and Ereaders and Tablets and are sooo excited about them! There isn’t a time that goes by when I’m reading from my Kindle in public that people don’t ask if they can see it and how it works and tell me they’ve been thinking about getting one because one of their friends or family members has one and loves it! You can totally “feel” the excitement! :-)

    The TradiPub Industry Peeps…their bad attitude is still thriving in Industry events, and they’re enlisting the help of their Top 5% Authors too. Check out Bob Mayer’s report on the DoJ Price-Fixing Suit against the Big Six and his BEA (Book Expo America) experiences from earlier this month in NYC:

    http://bit.ly/KQozGW

    • Talli Roland says:

      Interesting, DD. People here are intrigued by Kindles and the like, too, but the establishment is also have a very tough time adjusting – hence the kind of article like I posted today. I do think the US is ahead in the game, but then, you also have two extra years on us.

  7. Tamara Ward says:

    I recently talked to students at a community college. A lot of colleges are having ebooks now instead of paper books. I asked the students who had an e reader. When only a few out of a class of about 30 raised their hands, I asked which students wanted an e reader. Only a couple more raised their hands. But the college was in a more rural section of the state… Still, in my county, there’s been talk of not requiring students to learn how to write in cursive in the elementary school system.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Hm, interesting, Tamara! Perhaps the uptake of e-readers is faster in rural areas? I wonder if that’s true. Thanks for the anecdote!

  8. I can’t speak for the UK, but I believe the gulf is more generational than anything. I’m 30. My generation and the “kids” coming behind me are fundamentally different than the generations before just in our concept of TIME. I order coffee filters with a click of a button and it will be here in 48 hours or less. My entire life has moved faster and faster at an exponential rate. As a kid, when my Dad was out to sea and we wanted to talk on the phone, I remember the old MARS lines because long distance and phone lines weren’t everywhere the boat pulled in. Today, cell phones and satellite phones work almost anywhere. I even got email from my husband while his submarine was under water! And as our world has become more digital and therefore more compact, we don’t keep stuff. Furniture and appliances aren’t made to last anymore, but to be consumed and recycled. I love to read, and have since I was a child who would gladly spend a Saturday with her new library books, and I don’t like paper books anymore. They’re a pain. They collect dust, they weigh a ton, they get messy, and they’re heavy to lug around as I’m often reading 2 or 3 things at once.

    All this hullabaloo about books as “status symbols” is utter nonsense. Who really keeps a library/study anymore in their home? No one I know. And if they do, it is a private part of the home, like in a bedroom or office and not somewhere guests are usually invited to spend time. Not to mention the whole idea of “I own a book, look, but I haven’t read it” is so pretentious and retarded from a marketing aspect. What writer wants to SELL a book to someone with no intention of reading it? I don’t know many.

    Now, there is a fair argument about the license vs. possession argument. With a paperbook, I can resell it, or give it to another very easily with no involvement from the original distributor. That can’t usually be said for an ebook. Most ebooks are licenses to use, not outright ownership of the digital file.

    I have purposely CHANGED my front “licensing” info of my book to encourage readers to treat my ebook as they would a paperbook they loved. They have my express permission to distribute up to 10 digital copies per year to direct friends and family members through direct communication such as email. They may not upload the book to any system with the purpose of mass distribution nor represent themselves as the copyright holder, author, or any agent therof. They may sell one copy of the digital file if they agree to delete the file from their personal digital library and all devices. Yes, this is on the honor system, but so is not xeroxing a book, which is rampant I can tell you for any college textbook. I don’t think my readers are buying copies of my book to put them on torrent sites. And if they are, well thanks for the exposure. LOL.

    So I do come part of the way on how can we make sure readers feel like what they are buying HAS long term, inherent value and isn’t just temporary access. But books as Rolexes? Please. What a teeny tiny segment of the book buying public.

    • Kat Ward says:

      Well said. I’ll always love books and have a bookshelf with my favorite books in my living room because I actually like to see the spines, read the titles and be reminded of the story, my joy from reading them, and I would love, love, love to have a “proper” library one day. But despite that difference between us, I think your post is spot on. Completely. And I like your licensing offers to your readers. Very interesting way to go about it. Will take that under consideration.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Well said, Elizabeth. The UK, however, is very class-oriented (yes, still) and you frequently hear ‘working class’ and ‘middle class’ bandied about. With such a class-driven society, part of me is not surprised by Ms Brady’s comments.

      I like your approach to enabling your readers to treat your book as they would a paperback – very progressive and forward-thinking!

  9. In the US, this attitude could be seen right up until the day that ebooks started outperforming hardbacks…then paperbacks…then all YA books…

    Sometimes change is embraced by the elite/establishment first, but usually not. Change happens because it benefits someone – people are not irrational after all. Technological change is not a force of its own, something that happens without anyone benefiting from it. Tech sea changes like the rise of the ebook happen because there is an essential efficiency to it that makes it better, at least in some way, to the prior technology (print book distribution).

    My first question about this particular strident objector was the same as yours: why is she allowing her book to be distributed in ebook form? Answer: she’s not in charge. The sales department at her publisher know that her book needs to be available in ebook in order to sell well. That, more than anything she says, undermines her position completely.

    • Talli Roland says:

      ‘The sales department at her publisher know that her book needs to be available in ebook in order to sell well. That, more than anything she says, undermines her position completely.’

      Absolutely, Susan! I couldn’t agree more. I hope the attitude shifts when ebooks sales start outpacing paperbacks. They’re definitely on their way.

  10. Julie Day says:

    Yes, the US is way ahead of us with ereaders and ebooks. I think this person needs to be in contact with our authors such as Freda Lightfoot and others who have republished their books themselves as ebooks and ask how well they are doing. She is so out of touch with what is happening. I love print books, but also like reading from my Kindle and discovering new authors I wouldn’t read otherwise.

  11. Last Christmas I bought a Kindle for my 25-year-old son who lives in D.C. He has always been a reader, but he just recently told me that he thinks he’s reading even more since he now has an e-reader. It’s so much more convenient for him when doing laundry, riding the metro, etc.

    My 72-year-old mother got a Kindle last Christmas too & she loves it as well. She keeps it in her purse and has embraced many new indie authors.

    You can’t hold back progress, and e-readers are the future and will continue to grow in popularity.

  12. Ruth Harris says:

    Porn? Really?

    She’s kidding, right????

    Doesn’t she know that the estate of Winston Churchill has just agreed to have his work published in e-book form? Winston Churchill, the great English writer, orator & leader of Great Britain during WWII!!!!

    And she’s blathering on about porn even as HER OWN book is being published in e-format?

    Sometimes you have to wonder what planet some people are living on.

  13. There are some traditionalists who hate everything e-book and kindle (though you have those everywhere), but for the most part, people seem to fully embrace the e-books here. Most of the people I know either have Kindles, Nooks, or I-pads that they can read e-books on, or wish they had one of those. The e-readers are particularly popular with college students, since they don’t take up space in a dorm or small apartment like carrying around a library would and cost less.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Gina, exactly – ereaders are perfect for people with storage issues, and I find books cheaper, too. I’ve bought loads more books since buying my Kindle.

  14. Fab post, Talli! I think Americans might more willing to fly in the face of tradition than peeps in the UK, and all things electronic are adored here. Beyond that I think Susan’s comment has it. When folks see there’s money to be made, they’ll head in that direction. I am friends with an older, famous UK author who is suddenly very keen on getting rights to his backlist books so he can e-pub them.

    • Talli Roland says:

      That’s true, Alicia – it does seem to take the UK longer to come around to things, but where money’s involved, it certainly helps motivate!

  15. I just got done traveling, hauling thick heavy books around just wasn’t going to happen and others obviously agree. We are ahead of the world just as with many tech things, that’s a good thing not a bad think, in my opinion.

  16. I had my first-gen Kindle for about a year before I used it much… I really wanted that Kindle, and as soon as I heard about such a thing coming out, I asked my then-fiance and kids to buy me one for Christmas, which is why I got one of the very first ones. Then it sat around. After picking it up and getting used to it, then of course publishing electronically myself, and now having a Kindle Fire (hubby gets the classic Kindle now!) I am a complete convert. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but the enjoyment of the occasional print book — and I was in a bookstore yesterday for the first time in a while, marveling at ALL that paper, and the outrageous expense of producing it — does not mean there are not reasons to love ebooks and ereaders. Let me count the ways ebooks are better:

    1. Lighter.
    2. Cheaper.
    3. Font size selection.
    4. An infinite selection of books at a touch.
    5. Ability to chat with others in real-time about ebooks and reading experience.
    6. Updatable content.
    7. Brilliant color photos.
    8. No trees destroyed.
    9. Instant gratification!

    (Love the last best — I can finish Book 2 of The Hunger Games at midnight and give in to the irresistible urge to buy Book 3 in the blink of an eye!)

    Here’s when we’ll know that ebooks are the thing. When the word “book” simply means ebook, and one has to use a term like print book or paper book to identify the old-fashioned kind.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Exactly! Thank you for such a great list, Patrice. And that instant gratification thing is so great! If I run out of books to read, I don’t need to dash to the bookshop any longer… thirty seconds later, I’ve got a new book. Love it.

  17. Carole Ramsay says:

    I think it says it all that though I have only recently come to consider ebooks do something I might actually read, my daughter who is fourteen, -only- reads on her Nook. she wouldn’t buy -any- books in print if she didn’t have to for her english class which still requires students to read some books not available on the nook
    this is very important for us not to overlook

    • Talli Roland says:

      Carole, thank you for sharing that example. I think younger people will migrate much more easily to ereaders, since it’s all part of the technology surrounding them ever day – and that has been since they were born.

  18. Jill James says:

    About the only place I would prefer paper over e is the beach or a public pool and that is only because if someone takes my book it is $9.99 my nook was $249.00.

  19. Laura Taylor says:

    Hi Talli
    Ruth Harris pretty well summed up my response, aside from the comment I made on FB yesterday, i.e. Ms. Brady needs a reality check!
    I experienced similar look-down-their-noses behavior when I taught last week at a writers’ conference among those who consistently denigrate commercial fiction of any kind in favor of the so-called more superior literature. Like most dinosaurs, they, too, will be overcome by events!
    We’re on the leading edge of a revolution – I’m loving the ride for one simple reason – I am reaching readers. They are my priority.
    LT

    • Talli Roland says:

      ‘We’re on the leading edge of a revolution – I’m loving the ride for one simple reason – I am reaching readers. They are my priority.’

      Yes, very well said. It’s all about reaching readers for me, too.

  20. I holidayed in Maui the first of February and books were few and far between on the beach. But e-readers? Everywhere. ditto for the flights. So this is the coming wave and with Amazon partnering with Waterstone, the UK will be equal soon.

  21. Sara Rosett says:

    Call me crazy, but I buy books to *read* them, not to display them. Sure, I have shelves full of books, but I also have a Kindle full of books.

    It amazes me that people are so upset about e-books. Stories were kept on scrolls before bound books. I wonder if there were “pro-scroll” holdouts who attacked bound books?

  22. Sibel Hodge says:

    What????

    I was talking to a family friend the other day who’s a vice principal at a big UK college. Interestingly, he was saying that their DTB library is now 1/3 of what it used to be because they’ve gone over to mainly digital books, eventually this will reduce further. Every student who enrolls now will be given a laptop, too! So I think some at least of the UK is setting the trend for the rest of the island! :)

    Anyway, can’t hang around, I’m desperate for the loo…where did I put my Kindle?

  23. Bufo Calvin says:

    Interesting post, Talli!

    I think that there was a very long time where books were the property of the elite. I make fun of that in my ILMK E-Books Timeline:

    http://ilmk.wordpress.com/timeline/

    “1455

    Date approximate: Gutenberg Bible is published, one of the first major mass marketings of literature. Undoubtedly, some people with illuminated manuscripts declared the end of Western civilization, and claimed they weren’t “real books” ;)

    Penny Dreadfuls (the British equivalent of the American “dime novels”) weren’t fine literature: they were generally popular, genre works.

    Albatross started paperback books in Germany in 1931, Penguin did them in England in 1935, Pocket Books brought them to the USA in 1939…and e-books have set mass market paperbacks on a market implosion in the last few years.

    It’s why I’ve suggested one thing we may see if $50 novels in the not too distant future as a standard for new releases by brand name authors.

    It’s fascinating to me that an author would think that the words that they have written become useless once actually sold, and that the ability to read them again is meaningless. It suggests that the value of the book is only as a commodity, not as literature…and I personally don’t see it that way.

    I thought perhaps your excerpt had misrepresented the post, but it does seem to be what the author is quoted as saying…the book should be a physical object of value, like a Rolex.

    By the way, that does bring up one of my favorite quotations:

    “…context…”

    –Manny Farber

    ;)

  24. deniz says:

    I wonder why people feel the need to make comments like that? I’m as Luddite as they come in some areas, but there are so many exciting ways to explore new technology instead of knee-jerk decrying it.