Paperbacks or Ebooks?

Paperback or Ebook?

This seems to have been a debate for quite a while now. The question of whether an electronic book or a book made of real paper is best.
Of course printing and print books have been around for centuries. The earliest form of printing was probably ’block’ printing in Asian countries like China and Korea, where carved wooden blocks were used to print text as far back as the year 220. Although people were probably using stencils and printing with carved vegetables or something like it long before this (didn’t you just love doing Potato prints as a kid?). By about the 1040’s the Chinese had presses with moveable type. In Europe, printing was invented by Johannes Gutenburg and his famous press in 1450.
The first mass market ’paperbacks’ became popular in the early 19th century. They were cheap versions of more expensive hard-cover books. These were called ’Yellowbacks’ due to their yellow covers and were sold in Britain by W H Smith’s from shops on railway stations, to give passengers something to read on their journeys. Not much changes, you can’t go on a train now without seeing someone with a Kindle. You can still find W H Smith’s at railway stations throughout the UK and now they even sell ereaders (Kobo ereaders).
It is argued that the idea ‘electronic books’ dates back to the 1930’s where some were worried that films with sound, ’the talkies’, would replace reading and books, and by the 1940’s with the advent of the first giant clunking computers (like those used at Bletchley Park to decode Hitler’s ’Enigma’ machines) some attempted to use them to organise large catalogues or indexes of books.
The first patented electronic book came in 1949 – an Spanish teacher named Angela Ruiz invented the ’Mechanical Encyclopaedia’ to try and reduce the amount of books her students had to carry. This somehow ran on compressed air and allowed students to add content with ’spools’. Apparently you could move to any section you wanted mechanically and it supposedly even had a ’zoom’ function! From the picture this looks like a genius ‘Heath Robinson’ contraption, like something from a steampunk novel. I would love to have a play with one.


Angela Ruiz and the Mechanical Encyclopaedia

Nowadays lots of people love their Kindles and iPads and they are becoming a more and more familiar sight as we go about our everyday business. I feel that we sometimes forget how new these things are. The first Kindle only appeared in 2007 (although this was preceded by the Sony Ereader a year earlier and by things like the ’Rocket Ebook’ in 1998). The iPad only appeared in 2010. It’s funny to me sometimes how ubiquitous these things have become in such a short space of time (’YouTube’ for example has only been around since 2005).
So, in some senses the ebook is still very much in its early days.
Which do you prefer? There are many who say to me “I still like to hold a real book in my hands,” and others who say “I love that I can carry all my books on my Kindle, so much easier when you travel,”
Personally I think it is a kind of non-argument. Of course we all love to hold a real book. But more and more of us are reading on electronic devices. I don’t, for one minute, think that print books will disappear (they said that computers in the workplace would lead to a ’paperless’ society – how wrong was that?). I do, however, think that the devices we read on will improve and change beyond anything we can imagine.
Really, at the end of the day, the real point is that people love stories. Great stories. They always have and always will. Before ebooks people typed and printed books. Before printing people wrote stories with pens and pencils and brushes. Before writing people told stories and handed them down through the generations.
So it doesn’t really matter how the story is delivered people will always have an appetite to read a great story.
To that end I decided to make my novel available as a paperback book, with real paper-cut inducing pages, as well as an ebook.
You can get my novel, The Last Englishman and the Bubble, as a paperback – click here, or as an ebook, click here.
As ever any comments are thoughts are welcome…


© 2013 Simon Poore

My problem with ‘Genre’…again…

So another year and another round of agent submissions. Pretty much at this same time last year I was sending out my first round of submission to literary agents for my first novel ’The Last Englishman and the Bubble’ (now self-published and available for all! See my last post).
Now a year later I am embarking on that same journey with my second novel: ‘An End of Poppies’.
As you can probably tell that first book didn’t manage to climb anywhere near the top of the ’slush-pile’ and most agents probably either recycled the paper it was printed on or simply pressed ’delete’. The cynical part of me thinks that most of them probably didn’t even read it.
I know that one or two did and the feeling was that although they (kind of) liked it they didn’t know how to market it. It was described as “well written” and “obviously intelligent” but they didn’t know what box to out it in. You would think that has made me disheartened, but no it is quite the opposite, somehow I am more determined.
It all brings me back to one of my pet subjects; the misleading marketing tool of ’genre’.
I suppose it is inevitable that I have to grapple with this problem; often when submitting or when publishing online you have to label your work with it’s genre.
‘The Last Englishman…’ is a Sci Fi book, but I know that it is more than that and that the label ’SF’ may well put readers off if they don’t normally read this kind of book. It is also a romance, a drama, a dystopia and a commentary on existence, love and society. The downside of the label ’SF’ is that it means that many agents/publisher won’t touch it with a barge-pole. Surprising how many specifically say that they publish/work with all kinds of books but NOT science fiction or fantasy (the list usually says NO Science fiction, fantasy or poetry! I feel for you poets out there!).
At least this is not a problem for my new novel. It is perhaps an ’alternate history’; but here again I find that description inadequate. It is an epistolary novel, with romance and war, social commentary and feminism. And it is, I hope, a literary novel.
So what conclusion can I come to? Well, none really. I suppose people have to have some way to pigeon hole things. How else would readers find books? That said I still don’t like the idea of ’genre’, and still feel it misleads and constrains. I certainly don’t want to write in a certain genre because it is marketable. I will continue to write what excites and enthrals me, and hope it does the same for others, whatever it eventually becomes labelled as.
So wish me luck in search of that elusive agent who will fight my corner to find that elusive publisher. Maybe then I can leave the job of ’pigeon-holing’ to them?


Will my novel jump out of the Slush Pile?

© 2013 Simon Poore