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

Are you Read or just Published?

Today I have the pleasure of presenting a guest post by the talented Melody Kaufman (MAJK) who asks an interesting question. You can find more of Melody’s thoughts on her wonderful website: SAFIREBLADE.

Are you Read or just Published?

Welcome to the E-book Revolution. It’s an exciting time where everyone can be published. Just dash out about 50,000 words on your laptop and all your dreams will come true.

You didn’t believe that did you? Did you rush over and start writing the next Fifty Shades of Grey, or On the Island? I hope not. It takes more than dashing off words and tossing them online to become a successful writer. It takes discipline, talent, and more than a bit of luck.
We’ve all heard people say how badly written certain works that are now major motion pictures (*cough Twilight cough*) are and wonder idly how these things came to be multi-million dollar franchises while really good indie authors are still juggling day jobs and writing.
Whenever I think of this I take out an autographed CD case signed by Garth Brooks before his super star days. He was a singer just trying to make it performing in bars all over the place. Years later in the midst of a star studded multi-album career he would tell Barbara Walters there were guys in Nashville who could sing better, write better, and looked better. So why did he get signed and not them. Timing is everything. He met the right people at the right time that were into the type of material that he had to offer. That is how the world works but does that mean you should throw up your hands.
The author of the Island worked diligently mornings before her day job writing the book On the Island. Discipline. There has to be a burning desire to write. Many people (myself included) deride Fifty Shades of Grey for being written terribly. It began as a fan fic. For those of you unfamiliar with what a Fan Fic is – it is short for fan fiction, which generally describes a story written by a fan using the world and or characters of a popular movie, game, anime, or book. Now here is the part where I defend a novel I truly dislike. Regardless of E.L. James writing (because let’s face it most debut novels aren’t that well written) the fact is that she was writing for her readers. The work was removed from the fan site due to content and she didn’t give up but placed it on her own site and kept writing. Discipline.
Another thing you will notice that one thing all of the recent “Black Swan” indies have in common, is audience. They had an audience. Before the big names would even look at them they were selling to readers. Lots and lots of Readers. Average, everyday people were willing to spend their money and their time to read these works.
Their marketing tactic was the one that has been around the longest ~ Word of Mouth. From what research I did there were no blog tours, books trailers, or Twitter campaigns. I could be wrong but it looked fairly organic. No big advertising budget made lightening strike for these writers. Just plain and simple – one reader to another – word of mouth and good reviews.
Ultimately, these authors were not successful because they were published. You could say they were, in fact, published only because they were successful. The big dogs smelled money and came running. These authors had readers waiting eagerly to read what they wrote. Tracy Hickman Author of Eventide and Wayne of Gotham says “when strangers value your writing enough to pay money to read your words and breath life in to them you may be a professional author” and I am inclined to agree with him.
When it comes right down to it you aren’t really an author unless you are read. No matter how many books you publish.

Thanks Melody. I will say at this point that I never really liked Garth Brooks, and as for Twighlight, don’t get me started (am I the only person who thinks it is a little weird/dodgy for someone who is about 100 years old to go to high school and date a teen?). Anyway, as ever all comments on this post are welcome! What do you think?


© 2012 Simon Poore