Friday, September 30, 2011

September Theme: Thoughts on eBooks (Christine Brodien-Jones)

Like many authors, my feelings on the topic of eBooks are mixed. I write novels for middle grade readers and whether they read the hardcover, the paperback, or the eBook version makes no difference: the main thing is that they’re reading!

It's obvious that eBooks are here to stay, so it's not surprising that many teens and
'tweens who are growing up in this new digital world embrace Kindles and Nooks. Yet I can't imagine 'real' books becoming obsolete any time soon, especially middle grade and picture books: I'd like to think that children’s books will always be popular in book versions.

One worry I've heard expressed is that eBooks threaten small independent bookstores. I think of the one in my town, where I heard Sebastian Junger read from "The Perfect Storm" when it was first published. If stores like this one were to vanish, we've lost something irreplaceable. As one blogger points out, digital sales can only happen intentionally, not accidentally, so if there's no bookshelf to browse, no exciting new book will be discovered. A scary thought.

Maybe I'm an optimist, but I don't think local bookstores will disappear. The experience of being in a bookstore can never be replaced by a Kindle: the smell of a book when you open it, the book displays, the colors and designs of bookcovers, the feel of a book as you flip through it. And what about hearing a poet or novelist read from their work? None of these things can be fully duplicated by the Internet. Going to a bookshop is a treat. You might meet other book-lovers, or salespeople who rave about the latest books. You're part of a community during your short time there.

On the upside of the digital wave, I find it interesting to see what some authors are doing with eBooks. For instance, Cory Doctorow gives away eBook versions of his books, encouraging his eBook readers to buy a print copy and give it to a school, a library or a friend. J.K. Rowling has made her Harry Potter series available as an eBook on her interactive website Pottermore, saying she wants to "bring the stories to a new digital generation."

Perhaps the biggest impact of the digital revolution on authors has been the way we promote our books. I spent nearly six months investigating and trying out the best ways to promote my book "The Owl Keeper" online. The process was overwhelming and time-consuming - I might add I was on a steep learning curve - but in the end I connected with authors, readers, bloggers and people in the publishing industry, and a whole world opened up before my eyes. But that's a story for another day.

-Illustration by Quentin Blake

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