to e or not to e

to e or not to e

Who says ebooks can’t coexist with paper books? And why do so many people fall into the ‘for’ or ‘against’ camps like zealots? Perhaps because for many writers, and readers, great books can be like a religious experience – they give us insight, emotion, empathy, passion… epiphanies. But do great novels have to be made of paper to make us feel all that? And do ereaders mean traditional publishing is dead? Of course not.

Anything that gets more people reading – adults and children – is great. And if more writers publish their own ebooks, that’s great, too. It’s quality that matters. It also matters to traditional publishers and that’s one of the benefits they offer their clients. Okay, for some the royalties might be better at Amazon, but you don’t get a built-in editor shaking their head and telling you to, “Cut, cut, cut… and that’s the tenth time you’ve used the word really.”

Traditional publishing still has a lot to recommend it. So do professionally produced ebooks. Anything that brings books to readers, whether it’s a lorry from a distribution depot or a line of computer coding on an ereader is fine by me.

Amanda Hocking has found that both traditional and epublishing works for her.  Having made a well-deserved fortune by putting her novels online, she has now turned to traditional publishers to help her increase her readership and get physical books out to her growing fanbase.

For me, ereaders will never replace books. Curl up on the couch with a coffee and a Kindle? Nah. But, you know, if we didn’t embrace change, we’d still be sending our manuscripts out to scribes, killing goats, scraping and preparing the skins to make vellum, getting some gall from tree bark for the ink, touting round for the scribe with the best hand then waiting a few years for delivery – of one beautiful book. I wonder if merchants back in the 15th century turned up their noses at the new “printed” books? “Ooh, look, he’s got a Gutenberg.” Sniff, “I only read illuminated manuscripts, you know. Can’t abide new technology.”

The changes happening in publishing today are seismic. And they’re not going to stop. Great. The canvas and the camera co-exist in harmony and are used by artists to create beautiful images. The creativity comes from the people using them. Epublishers and traditional publishers are similar creative forces. As a reader, and a writer, I welcome them both.

Kay Leitch

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