Ahhh, the summer holidays. I indulged myself a bit and spent several days lying on the couch in my dressing gown reading detective fiction.
A couple of the books were trashy: lightweight, mediocre, rather lacking in plot.
A couple more were even worse than that, with characters whose actions were several times quite unbelievable and plots that were convenient, rather than interesting.
With a few I didn’t make it through even the free sample chapter before moving on to greener pastures. Thank Amazon for the free samples!
The good stuff
Then I got lucky and found a few books that were really high quality, even though they were inexpensive.
One new author I discovered was Lexi Revellian, when I read her book Remix (affiliate link). In this novel the lead character, who restores rocking horses for a living, is drawn by accident into a mystery she eventually solves.
The writing was engaging and enjoyable, the character completely believable, and someone I could identify with. She wasn’t a sharp, street-smart detective; instead she bumbled along, not at all sure she knew what to say or do, or that she even wanted to be involved.
How have I never heard of or read this author before? I was instantly hooked. Again, the lead character, Anna Pigeon, a US park ranger, is accidentally caught up in solving a murder.
The descriptions of the outdoors and environment flow naturally and unselfconsciously, bringing the sounds, smells and feelings of the parks into the book.
There were many terms new or unfamiliar to me, such as
manzanita. Thank goodness for being able to select a word and see a definition right there at the bottom of the page.
In this book the plot was credible, the character very endearing and the setting fabulous. I just kept reading and reading.
Nevada Barr is instantly one of my new favourite authors.
Having finished the first, I immediately returned to the Kindle Store for the next. There are now about 16 featuring this character. This author was guaranteed that I’d be handing over my cash to read the other 15.
15 lost sales
But guess what! That’s the only one of her books available on Kindle to New Zealand. It may be the only one on Kindle, fullstop, I’m not sure. But the problem I stumble over almost every time I find an author I like is that I’m not allowed to buy their Kindle books, as the screenshot for
City of Pearl illustrates.
It’s so frustrating.
Hard to get books
That’s when my partner stepped in.
They have all her books in the Library, she said.
All the resident has to do is complete a ritual to obtain a library card.
The card-holder then journeys to the building, using time and precious resources, spends time locating the ‘book’ from amongst the many shelves and having it issued in their name, and then spends more time and resources travelling home. Eventually they must repeat the journeys to return the book and find the next in the series, with no guarantee that the next one will be available.
It’s a good thing there’s no actual charge for the books as well, though I guess as ratepayers we’re taxed to support this antiquated system.
Meanwhile Library staff spend time and resources keeping track of all the books and ensuring they are placed correctly on the shelves. I guess they also sometimes repair books as they become worn out, and somehow dispose of them if they are beyond repair.
This is all very resource-intensive.
Unfortunately too, these ‘books’ are not only likely to be carrying who knows what germs and diseases, having been handled by so many people, but they are also rather ungainly and awkward to use, and they’re dumb.
Many of the pages are marked with stains. I’ve had to make sure to wash my hands after handling these books.
As soon as I lay down in bed to read one of these books the light was behind me and the page was in shadow. There was no adjustable backlight to make up for failures in ambient light. It seemed as though whichever way I lay the light was always in the wrong place.
There was no way to adjust the font size either. And then, when I came across a word I wanted to check, tapping on the page did not call up a definition, or a link to a helpful resource.
I had no way to note an interesting turn of phrase, and bookmarks are achieved by locating a separate piece of card and inserting it between pages, hoping it didn’t fall out.
Each one of these books is larger and harder to handle than my iPad with its Kindle software.
Publishers: get your act together
I’ve been reading ebooks now for over a decade. I first started with mainly free fan fiction on my Handspring Visor, because that’s what was available. I love having all those words in the palm of my hand.
The Kindle software for iPad (and other similar devices) brings me the world instantly. And I’ll pay for it. I’ll hand publishers actual dollars to let me read a book instantly, on my terms.
Or it would and I would, if only the publishers would play nice.
I’m sure some of my friends and readers will be outraged by this post. Some of you love the feel and smell and texture of paper books. You love buying shelves to store them on, dusting them, looking at them.
I’ll say that ebooks are replacing paper books in the way books replaced scrolls and scrolls replaced tablets of stone. For me, the sooner the better.
I want the whole world at my fingertips. I want the connectedness and immediacy of Kindle (and similar schemes).
Publishers: please sort out the whole ‘region’ stupidity that means I can’t buy a book because I’m in New Zealand and not the USA. And please, please, publish all your fiction books as ebooks. I’ll buy, at a reasonable price, when it’s an author whose work I enjoy, and sometimes even when it’s an author whose work is a bit shoddy.
I’ve been loving Kindle on iPad. I browse, download a sample chapter in moments. If I decide to buy it takes only a minute to click the Buy button and be reading the book. I’m in the flow, engaged in the world the author creates.
Please let’s move now from Books 1.0 to Books 2.0.
Footnote: As a kid in the 60s and 70s I watched lots of ‘cowboy’ programmes on TV, amongst them The High Chaparral. That left me with a lifelong belief that a chaparral was a place. Now, thanks to Kindle and definitions I know that in fact it’s a plant.