the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘e-books’ Category

Today’s guest post is from Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. When I first started visiting his blog about two years ago, I was immediately struck by his well considered and lovingly written reviews and all the beautiful artwork that graced his website. Beyond the artwork and enlightening content, every post generates warm and friendly conversation.  Please welcome Carl!

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(Image Credit)

The book cover—at its very best it draws you in, singling itself out amidst the noise of other books vying for your attention, and your book buying dollars. At its worst it provokes a visceral reaction, discouraging you from giving any consideration at all to what the book in question may be about and it may even turn you off from the genre in question completely. That is a lot of responsibility for an illustration to bear and the interesting dilemma facing art directors the world over is that the same book cover illustration will elicit both reactions at the same time. We are all different and we all respond to different visual cues, especially those of us who are fans of science fiction and fantasy, a genre in which the community is not afraid to vocalize their opinions. But this guest post is not about good or bad genre cover art, it is about the importance, or lack thereof, of the art itself in the wake of the rapid rise of electronic books, or ebooks.

Laying aside the pro and con arguments of reading paper books vs. electronic ones, let us agree with the premise that ebooks offer publishers a way to cut production costs significantly over their traditional paper offerings. That cost savings presumably translates into a cost savings for the consumer. That  being the case I have often wondered over the last year if there will be an increased move by publishing companies to eliminate or significantly reduce the costs associated with cover art by moving away from commissioning artwork from established artists and up and coming talent. This question was brought back to my mind when a reader asked this question on my Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy Covers of 2012 post:

“Given so many people are using ereaders nowadays, does that make cover art more or less important? Ebooks don’t have covers, and they’ll soon make up most of the market (if they don’t already). Does that mean it’s not worth bothering, or mean the looks of dead-tree copies matter more as people attach more worth to them as actual physical things?”

My first reaction, which I stated in my reply, is that ebooks do have covers. As I thought about it, however, I understand that both answers are correct. Many ebooks currently have covers in the sense that they have an image advertising the book and for those books that also have print copies available the image used is often the same as that created for the book cover of the physical copy. On the other hand they do not have covers in that the word does not apply. The image attached with the ebook does not “cover” anything. Will publishers begin to think this way as well and if so will that translate into fewer actual pieces of art being commissioned for the use of science fiction and fantasy novels, short story collections and anthologies.

And perhaps more to the point, do you care?

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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.


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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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.