Publishing and Consultancy
At first I was afraid. Ebooks seemed to spell THE END for traditional publishing. Now it was possible to produce a book at the touch of a button, there would be no need for big, unwieldy publishing houses to exist. If I invested in a Kindle, I would be helping to destroy the industry I worked in, effectively doing myself out of a job that I loved. Plus I couldn’t fathom how staring at the screen of a cold, clinical gadget could compete with the much more tactile experience of reading a book. I swore that I would never get an e-reader. I would remain devoted to ‘real’ books.
Then I got a Kindle for Christmas. I really didn’t think I’d take to it. I thought I’d miss holding a book in my hands, appraising the cover design and reading the blurb, appreciating the typeface and page layout. On the Kindle screen cover designs tend to have far less impact in black and white, and a page of text looks pretty much the same whichever book it comes from.
But I was prepared to give it a try. After all the festivities I was feeling a bit drained and fancied an easy read, so the first book I downloaded was The Help. The idea that you could think of a particular book in your head and be reading it on the Kindle seconds later – it was like magic. Soon I was lost in the story, my reservations forgotten as I cheered on Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny in their struggle against the stuck-up society ladies of Jackson, Mississippi.
Against all my instincts, I was hooked. The Kindle is so slim and light that I practically never go out without it. I always have reading matter to hand and as a consequence I read much more than I used to. I also find that I’m more willing to experiment with new genres: most of the books I read would be characterised as literary fiction, but recently I’ve taken advantage of special offers to download erotic fiction and vampire romance, to take just two examples.
It doesn’t mean I love ‘real’ books any less. Browsing in a really good bookshop staffed by enthusiastic book lovers is a great pleasure that, for the moment, has no online equivalent. This year I snapped up John Lanchester’s new novel and Jeanette Winterson’s memoir in hardback, both bought because they were books I’d been looking forward to reading for ages and wanted to own in a physical form. Publishers have started to pay far more attention to how books look to encourage readers to invest in hardbacks rather than ebooks. And, although some companies are trying to find inventive ways around the problem, if you’re buying a book as a present for someone, you can’t giftwrap an ebook.
So I’ve learned to love the Kindle. I can understand why people (and particularly publishers) might be petrified at the prospect of ebooks taking over. But it’s got to be a good thing for publishing if new technologies encourage more people to read, and to read more. We just have to figure out a way of making the most of it.
by Karen Ings, 28/8/2012