the Little Red Reviewer

it’s the accessibility, stupid.

Posted on: June 13, 2012

It isn’t news to any of you that I’m completely old fashioned. I ain’t into hand-made doilies or anything, but nostalgia and I are very good friends.

it’s not news to anyone that I have a total “book as object” fetish.  The feel of the paper, the marks on the spine, the condition of the book as a physical and visual record of its journey. Don’t get me started, I could seriously talk about this until the cows come home. Oh wait, I have.

but thanks to a few recent experiences I’m rethinking my “they are evil!” stance on  e-readers and tablets.

shocked?

Here’s how it happened:

A while ago I donated some money to a Kickstarter project called Save the SciFi that is buying up the rights to vintage Scifi and reprinting them. Yay for old books getting new life! For my donation, I get a handful of free books. But the organization is only doing ebooks. So if I want to actually get anything for my money (other than supporting something I believe in), I aughta get with the program.

Met an author at an airport over Memorial day weekend.  I didn’t know who he was, he didn’t know who I was, our flight was delayed, we randomly got talking. I said I was into Scifi, he was a SciFi author on his way to a con. He’s a happy mutant, his stuff is digital only. If I want to read him (and I’d like to), I better get with the damn program already.

I subscribe to a few print magazines.  Sometimes they show up mangled or rain soaked  in my mailbox. Sometimes so mangled that they are in an oversize Post Office envelope with an apology from the post office for destroying my mail. Apology is nice and all, but it’s still really hard the read the articles when the magazine is torn in half and the front cover is missing.  most print mags offer a free online subscription if you buy the print, or you can just buy online version a little cheaper.

I don’t even care that ebooks are a little cheaper than print. I truly don’t believe that an e-reader would be a more convenient reading device for me than a print book. I don’t find books heavy or expensive or cumbersome. I find their weight in my handbag to be quite comforting, actually.  ( it was funny on the airplane, the flight attendant told everyone to turn off all electronic devices, and there was an audible groan as people were forced to turn off their e-readers. I pulled a paperback out of my purse and enjoyed the flight.)

This is all about accessibility.   If it’s an out of print title that hasn’t been printed since 1945, yes, I’m still going to be on the search for a print copy. Chances are, an iffy condition, binding glue flaked, moldy copy. I’ll  buy it (hello, nostalgia fetish!) but an electronic copy would be nice, so I can actually read the damn thing without having an allergic reaction.  Print magazine? I like the print versions, and  they make great packing material and liners when i’m done with them. But electronic sure would be handy for when the act of mailing the stupid thing to me destroys its readability.

I will never stop buying print books. I will never get rid of my print books. My home will always look like a library exploded.

I don’t believe print books or brick and mortar bookstores will ever go away. I don’t believe electronic publishing is a credible threat to traditional publishing. They are simply two different modes of production and communication.

but again that magic word pops up: accessibility. A growing list of things I’m interested in (hello Lightspeed Magazine!) are primarily available electronically.  The only person getting hurt by my obstinacy is me.

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39 Responses to "it’s the accessibility, stupid."

I think that as we continue to figure out how digital content distribution works (I really feel like the book industry needs to look at what the music and home video industry has done in recent years for a good example), things will get better. Like you, I still want to collect physical “dead tree” editions of some books–simply put, it’s easier to get them signed if I should meet the author and I just like displaying my favorite books on a shelf. Plus you can’t beat the smell of new books…if only they’d make a scented candle.

I really think the book industry is dropping the ball by not including an option to download a digital copy of any physical book I purchase. I’d be willing to pay a dollar or so more to get a download of the book for my e-reader in the same way I can pay a bit more and get the DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital Edition of a new movie when it hits stores. In that case, I’ve also got the option to buy just the bare bones DVD and just the Blu-Ray. I wish book publishers would figure out a way to make this work and do it. After all, keeping digital editions around doesn’t cost much once you have the initial cost of producing it….

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a candle that smelled like new books? If Yankee Candle made that along side a coffee scented candle, they’d finally make some $ off me!

having the option to buy a book as a print/e bundle is genius. The pubs will figure this out eventually. . . right?

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I’m never going to assume that the publishers will learn. But maybe if we keep mentioning it to them, they might eventually figure it out. :)

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I should not be amused that you are hurting yourself. However, until some friend in Virginia, who shall remain nameless, forced me into the 21st century with her old Kindle, I was not an active participant in the ebook world either. We don’t have cell service in our valley. Nor is there cable. Or city water. Or dependable FedEx delivery. We have predators, shotguns, and paperbacks.
If I want my Kindle to talk to the wider world, I need to take it for a short drive back into cell phone range and sit in a parking lot and let it download books from the archive.

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oh, feel free to be amused!

My city is pretty well covered with cell coverage and wifi, but that’s something I didn’t even think of. What if I’m somewhere that isn’t super high tech? what good is the tablet then?

“predators, shotguns, and paperbacks”
sounds like a great name for a blog, or a reality tv show!

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I say try it. You can get a used e-reader for pretty cheap these days. I have a nook – original version and a tablet. There’s no good reason for two but we love gadgets in our house. I never thought I’d like e-books but found out I actually love them. What I really love is being able to carry several books without hurting my shoulder when my bag gets too heavy from all the books I’m convinced I need to carry with me. As for the plane, I always carry a paperback so I don’t have to shut my book off. :)

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yeah, with hardbacks, the strap of my bag does dig into my shoulder a bit, which does suck. I don’t describe myself as a gadget lover, but i have a phone and a laptop, and those are gadgets as far as I’m concerned, so I guess I’m turning into a gadget person.

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Several years ago when I made the switch to an eReader it was with great trepidation. Over those several years I have actually upgraded my eReader to a newer version. I’ve come to like having a virtual library in my hand. Being able to access numerous books at a touch rather then just one or two at a time has become second nature to me.

A number of authors now are only writing eBooks, some while still writing print also do exclusive eBook singles.

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“A number of authors now are only writing eBooks, some while still writing print also do exclusive eBook singles.”

and that’s exactly what I don’t want to miss out on.

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I am employed coding ebooks for authors. It’s a wonderful thing for many, many reasons. I has ipad, kindle x2, iphone, another something or other…But even I don’t actually read books electronically. I love my paper.

the industry is changing *so fast*. And this is not “boy golly things sure have changed over the last decade!” This change is happening over *months*.

There is a lot to explore and a lot of possiblity down the dark and unlit alleyways of how we are publishing and accessing our stories now. Serialized fiction on blogs, short stories on publisher webpages or blogs, fiction on podcasting… on and on.

Don’t invest in an e-reader unless you really really want the gizmo. You can download Kindle and/or Nook app for your PC and read those few books you would like to explore that way. The software is so difficult to deal with right now that publishers and authors are having a hard time dealing with the potential. But they’re figuring it out, and in a few months or a year a gizmo investment will be worth your moneys.

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no kidding everything is changing so fast! it makes my head spin sometimes. damn, reading what I just typed made me feel really old!

me buying an e-reader isn’t going to happen tomorrow, or maybe even this year. When this laptop eventually kicks the bucket from me abusing it, it’ll be replaced with some type of tablet / i-pad thing. And you’re right, in a year or so most of kinks will be out of the system.

I’m a little nervous about the downloadable apps, only because I have horrific eyesight and I get eye strain very easily. I have read a few serialized stories and short stories onscreen, but even then, I get eyestrain.

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I actually like these type of discussions more than the specific book ones. Yes, I also like the feel of a book in my hand. However, I have been disappointed several times when looking for a book and only finding it as an e-book. As for magazines, my thought is that I have been trying to downsize, and it is challenging for me to get rid of them in case I want to reread them. In the case of books, I will keep my favorite in a print edition. A magazine, especially if I have a subscription, would be worth it to me to have in electronic form. My phone has the capability, but it is small. Today I am going to finally put together the Nook I received from a friend of mine in a trade…Long live libraries, brick and mortar bookstores and the CHOICE for reading material accessibility!

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magazines printed on matte paper can go in the recycle bin, but I’m not sure about the shiny paper ones. I know what you mean about how they can really take up lots of space, fast.

This article had been percolating in my brain for a few days, and it’s been taking me ages to finish this draggy book I’m reading. I didn’t have a review. . . so my readers got something more interesting! ;)

Let me know what you think of the nook!

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Another accessibility issue that is happening, to turn this conversation the other way, is that the midlist and back list PAPER publications are going away. They’re being phased out, not reprinted, and those revenue streams for those authors are going away. –> this is where electronic is going to be able to continue to support our fave authors.

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ughh, I know. it seems like new books are only printed once, and then never again. I didn’t even think about it from the revenue to the authors point of view. so many angles to this!

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I’ve found that I haven’t stopped buying paperbacks even though I love my Kindle. Just be warned–e-readers are dangerous when it’s already 9:00 at night and you just finished the first book of a trilogy and it’s so goddamn easy to get the next book and start it right away. I’ve made a bad habit of having a physical copy of Book 1s and then the rest of the series in e-books because of the instant gratification factor.

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i have been known to log onto interlibrary loan or the library’s website to put stuff on hold. . at 2am when I’ve just finished the first book in a series.

instant gratification is great. . . . but anticipation can be thrilling!

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Andrea I do the exact same thing as well…:)) I love seeing on the library site and seeing if the book is in ‘transit.” The library is awesome they deliver books to my work, because they are a block away.

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your library delivers?? you are pulling my leg, right?

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nope I swear on Arthur C. Clarke’s grave that it is true.

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I don’t know what I’d do without my Kindle Touch. I buy far, far more books now than I did before I had it. It also introduced me to books like Wool.

The only time I find myself preferring a paper version anymore is if it’s a book where I’m constantly flipping back and forth between the index.

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see, exactly books like that!

and if the book has a map or index, or anything that I’m flipping back and forth, paper would be better. Although there have been books that I read, that at the same time I had google maps or dictionary.com open on the ‘puter.

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Yeah, you’d like a Kindle then. While the non-Fire Kindles aren’t going to do Google Maps they all have dictionaries and all you need to do is highlight the word. :-)

Plus, Kindle App for your phone. Have your books everywhere! It’s a life-saver if you’re sitting on a bench in the mall while the SO shops. :-P

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I literally just took the plunge this past weekend when I accepted my graduation present: a Kindle Touch. I agree with you, I love printed books sooooo much. I’m more of a library borrowing gal because I am still in the moving constantly phase of my life, but I will definitely be obsessed with filling bookshelves eventually. I also found however, again because of the poor college student thing, that Kindle has lots of free books on promo, and I get horrible eye strain reading them on my phone or computer (same with review books that I get only e copies of). I really want to read all these indie and review books because that’s something I enjoy supporting as a book blogger, but I can’t stand reading them back-lit…. Hence, my love of my Kindle Touch, so that my eyes are happy, my sleep habits are happy, and I get to read more of the books that would otherwise get passed by if I didn’t allow myself the e-option ;-) Do it for the stories!

Anya

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I’ve been on the fence myself for a while now about getting an e-reader… my two specific dislikes would be:

1.) Losing the aesthetics of a book—the cover, the weight, the texture in your hand—in favor of just plain text with badly formatted graphics. I’m also kind of a nostalgia nut; more often than not, I’ll track down a copy of a book with the cover I want, and will only worry about dog-ears and creases and yellowing if I was buying a collectible… those are signs somebody (or somepeople) loved reading this flipping thing. Or pitching it at a wall if it was awful, who knows.

2.) Most e-books are grossly over-priced, and the reasons for high prices are often hogwash. Consider: it’s cheaper to buy/stream music and movies, why not books? Most of the reasons relate to DRM/anti-piracy measures… and DRM is another negative check on my list. (I, for one, do not welcome our new price-gouging overlords.)

On the flipside, I have been snagging some good free or cheap ebooks… like Save the Sci-Fi; great shout-out, I also donated to their Kickstarter. The technological fetishist in me wants a tablet as a pseudo laptop replacement, and I’ll probably use that as an impromptu e-reader (via the Kindle Reader app). But give up physical books? Not for a while now, no.

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Well, we have all sorts of gadgets in our house – my husband loves new tech and we have games in every room! And, all my friends constantly assume I will have a kindle or some such because I read so much – like you, I think you have to strike a balance. Personally, I love going out and rummaging, finding old books, or books that I’ve never seen anywhere – it’s a bit of a weird obsession really, I’m either reading books, talking about books or looking at what books I’m going to want next. But, we’re not in the 18th century so we have to move on don’t we? (otherwise how did we manage to own computers, have the internet and blog with each other?) I actually do download books to read – for a variety of reasons, sometimes they’re on offer, sometimes can’t get them in Uk and so easier that way or, favourite, going on holiday and don’t want to carry lots of books. All that being said, yes, I will enjoy all the new tech but I’ll always have books – at the end of the day I would love my own little library or nook and you can’t really do that without books!
Good thoughts.
Lynn :D

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I avoided ereaders for quite a while, but I got one for Christmas the year before last and it really is about accessibility…

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My wife and I had a conversation about this actually recently. We both ageed that we do not think that eBooks will replace books. As much as some people think that they will. There are to many die hards out there myself included that LOVE a feeling of a paperback in your grasp.

I love seeing some of the older books in a rummage sale and seeing the journey that they have been through. I will say I have been tempted to buying one, but I have not went to ranks of the ereading army.

Great post Andrea..:)) I am glad that there are readers like myself out there.

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[...] Little Red Reviewer interviews it’s the accessibility, stupid. [...]

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I still don\’t have an e-reader, but the kindle did allow my 8 y-o to get her Wheel-Mouse story out there and sell a few hundred copies, so I\’m warming to them.

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I’ve wrote many a word praising the book as object and for the most part have spent these few ereader years determined to not even consider one. That all changed near the end of last year when I realized that I would really like to keep up with monthly mags like Asimov’s and Lightspeed and Clarkesworld and that I would be more likely to do so if I had an ereader. I haven’t caved to purchase one yet, but that day will come. I’m sure I will also find myself getting some books on it, but the reality is that I would still rather hold that book in my hand. If it is new I want to hold it, smell the wonderful ink smell, see it sitting on my desk or bedside table. It is a small piece of art and I won’t ever tire of the excitement of bringing home a new book. For older books I love tracking down version with cool cover art and I like thinking about the book’s history as I sit down to read it. Who read it before me, what journey has this book been on. That will never happen with a digital book and so it will be the rare book that I buy for convenience on an ereader whenever I finally break down and get one. Still, every time I see a tweet from Lightspeed I wish I had one at hand.

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I haven’t caved yet, though I do have the Kindle app on my iMac, since the 27 inch screen makes it just possible to read an ebook, I guess. I haven’t tried it yet, but there were a couple of things available ONLY in that format (curses on the greedy bastards who make THAT decision!). As far as periodicals are concerned, maybe some day I’ll spring for an iPad (yes, I’m an Apple guy) and if so may go that route for a few of them, including the ones Carl mentions above.

Still books are the only BOOKS, and fine things they are. The electronic files that can be read are just that: files. Text on a screen, any screen, is NOT A BOOK.

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“I don’t believe print books or brick and mortar bookstores will ever go away. I don’t believe electronic publishing is a credible threat to traditional publishing. They are simply two different modes of production and communication.”

Yes, yes, yes! I read eBooks; I read print books. I will not stop reading print books just because eBooks exist, nor will I stop appreciating their physical, tangible presence. And as someone who lives outside the Anglo world, accessibility for me also means being able to find and read books that I would otherwise have a difficult time tracking down.

As for accessibility of out-of-print books, I think that eBooks have the potential to ensure that a book never need be unavailable ever again. Books go out of print because it doesn’t make sense for publishers to keep printing them. Many books fall between the cracks this way. There is no such issue with eBooks, and though this will certainly create some overflow problems, I think that the benefits greatly outweigh the possible negatives.

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“eBooks have the potential to ensure that a book never need be unavailable ever again”

bingo! :D and tracking down books that are printed in other countries is important as well, especially if you want something in a specific language or translation.

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It’s not an either/or decision. I have thousands of books, but I read ebooks on my iPad, too. I would prefer a real book, but sometimes the ebook will do the job just fine. I just received a copy of Philip Jose Farmer’s GODS OF OPAR just published by Subterranean Press. I wanted to read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ TARZAN AND THE JEWELS OF OPAR (the book PJF’s OPAR books are based on). AMAZON had a ebook version of TARZAN AND THE JEWELS OF OPAR available for FREE. The download took seconds and within moments I was reading about that fabulous, forbidden lost city. You can’t beat that!

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too true. not only are a lot of tough to find titles more easily accessible electronically, but the publishers and authors give crazy deals to help publicize other works by that author. it’s a win-win!! I really don’t know why I had it in my head that it had to be an either/or decision, perhaps those Kindle marketing geniuses who gave me the impression that once I bought and e, my house could be emptied of old, stale, dusty books? if they’d advertised a little better towards book fetishists like me, I’d have bought an E months ago.

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One of my daughters remembers me declaring, a few years ago, that I’d never want an alternative to paper books. Maybe I did — but I’ve since yielded to the convenience of being able to carry a library in my purse. . . . On the whole, though, I still prefer paper (when I don’t have to schlep it), especially if I want to go back and check something or re-read a favorite passage.

Our family is somewhat topsy-turvy. My parents, both in their late 80’s, have a Nook and a Kindle; my two daughters, ages 16 and 20, both despise digital alternatives and take great sensuous pleasure in paper books.

As a (self-published) author, I’m very grateful for ebooks. It’s a lot easier to persuade someone to take a chance on a book the price of a latte.

Speaking of which — do you take review requests? My current release, Twin-Bred, is science fiction, and I’d love to see what you’d think of it….

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funny, how your kids only want paper, but the other generation is doing E!

for sure, electronic is a huge plus for anyone wanting to go a non traditional publishing route. remember before E and all we had was print on demand? it was nearly impossible for authors to get books into the hands of readers.

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