Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I'm Still Not Dead! Also Stuff About Books and E-Readers

Woo, it's been a while. Yeah, basically I've going up and down and up and down and drowning myself in video games for the last month and a bit. While the latter part of this was (and still is) awesome, the fact that I haven't updated this blog in that month and a bit, even for webcomic reviews, has left me with a bad case of writing guilt. I blame the fact that I have almost no sense of routine during the holidays, and no looming deadlines to give me procrastination inspiration.

Anyway, this is just gonna be a short one, because I don't have the time to do a proper chunky post right now. I'll probably get working on a review or something soon, and since I'm back on a cartoon watching phase, that'll probably come up at some point too.

Anyway, there's one discussion that I've had several times with different people since last Christmas. This being on whether the existence of the Amazon Kindle and all the various other e-readers is a good thing. Opinions are mixed on this one, and for pretty good reason.

My parents surprised me with a Kindle as a Christmas present. Prior to this, I had never really considered getting one, since a) they were expensive and b) I have three bookcases worth of books in my house and see no reason to stop there. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised to receive one.

Now, bookshops are struggling a bit these days, what with books often being cheaper when bought online, and now even cheaper than that when bought on the Kindle. I get that, and I know I would be devastated if bookshops stopped being a thing. However, that's not to say that the Kindle and its ilk will be responsible for this.

Personally, I will always prefer books to the Kindle. There's just something about the physical presence of a book that trumps the nice slimline design of the technological version. On the other hand, I'm a student, and I live in a flat with very limited storage space, especially when you consider that I'm doing an English degree and therefore need a lot of books. Suddenly, the Kindle makes sense. I'm doing two English modules this coming semester, and I need a total of eleven books. That's a lot when you consider the space they take up, not to mention the cost of them. However, I managed to get seven on them on the Kindle for around £11 or so, which ain't too bad really.

Kindles are also handy when it comes to travelling. A lot of us like to take books on a long journey, but if you're flying, books can often be a pain when it comes to baggage allowances, and I know that I've often been forced to leave a book behind when I'm packing to get the train home. Books, however awesome, are often bulky and awkward to pack, especially if you're like me and my dad and are almost OCD about not creasing the pages or the spine. The Kindle, or indeed most e-readers, are much smaller and slimmer, and if you've got a half-decent cover on them, you've got less need to worry about damaging them. Not to mention that the Kindle can hold a lot of books, which can be organised however you want, bookmarked, annotated, whatever you need, all without damaging an actual book. It's surprisingly useful.

Again, I'm never going to say that the Kindle is better than having an actual book in your hands, but it is at least handy.

One other thing is the variety you can get with the Kindle store. I love reading, I love books. Unfortunately, the only book I've bought in months is the latest Dresden File, because unfortunately, the book industry has gone the same way as the video game industry. Or maybe that's the other way around. Anyway, the point is that publishers don't want to publish anything they don't know will sell, which is why the market has been flooded by a million different Twilight knock-offs, each as dire as the last. It's trash, but it's trash that sells.

One thing about the new e-book culture is that it is now incredibly easy to self-publish e-books. Sometimes, this isn't exactly a good thing, since many of these aren't edited, and so contain either a lot of mistakes, or are just plain bad. On the other hand, it has allowed a lot more original material to become available to readers through the likes of the Kindle store. I've found two novels that I actually got for free, written by new, unpublished authors, and you know, they were good. Free releases on the Kindle store is also a good way for them to advertise; the first of the two authors I read included a preview chapter for the second book they'd written, also on the Kindle store, but this time for a price. I haven't actually got around to buying that yet, but I'm considering it.

Again, this is now leading to an army of Twilight-clones flooding e-books as well, but if you take the time to sift through all of that, you can find some real gems. And if people read them on the Kindle, there's a much better chance of the author actually getting published later, since they can assure the publishers that 'hey, look; people are reading my stuff; it sells.'

In conclusion, I have no idea what the existence of Kindles and e-readers will do for bookshops. Maybe they will spell the end, in which case I'll be up in arms just as fast as anyone else. The Kindle and its kind do have their merits though; I don't see any reason why we should shun them entirely in favour of their paper-hearted older siblings.