Tuesday, January 12, 2010

eBook Q&A

At the end of last year, Allen Pierleoni of the Sacramento Bee interviewed me and several other authors--including John Lescroart and Cara Black--on our opinions about eBooks and how they might be changing the publishing industry. Read the article here.

Since Allen (naturally) only used a portion of his Q&A with me, I thought I'd also post his full set of questions and my responses below:

As an author, what are your thoughts re: e-readers steadily making inroads into the multibillion-dollar book industry?

I welcome them. My hope is that they will encourage more reading—both among the demographic groups that buy the most traditional books and among those that currently spend more time with other entertainment media.

They are also empowering for a “mid-list” author such as myself. Since Amazon enables authors to place e-books for sale on their site directly, it allows us to republish our out of print titles or titles that we have retained the e-book rights for without cost and without involving a publisher. We are also free to set pricing as we wish to encourage sales.

For example, I uploaded my novel Vulture Capital and set the price at $1.99 for a limited time to try to build a broader readership and encourage subsequent sales of other titles. The book reached number 564 overall in Amazon’s rankings for e-books.

A final advantage e-readers and the e-book format offer to authors is the opportunity to include rich content such as links to web sites, videos or audio files with the book. That can ultimately mean a wider range of options for telling a story.

Do you think e-readers affect what readers read, and do the readers change their reading habits?

Yes. I found that I’m actually buying more books than I did before. If it’s late at night and you’re lying in bed with nothing to read, it’s very easy to switch on your Kindle, browse for a title that interests you, download it and start reading immediately. Before e-readers with wireless connectivity to the Internet, you would have probably just switched off the light or (if you had a TV in your bedroom) flipped it on.

In terms of the types of things readers read, I think e-readers work best for novels, or nonfiction that’s read serially. Based on the little I’ve used e-readers to bookmark and/or annotate text, I think they would not work very well for text books or books where there’s a need to do a lot of skipping back and forth between sections.

You for or against e-readers, again as an author. Or neutral?

I’m for them professionally for the reasons I mentioned, and personally because I do enjoy the convenience and the rapid access to new titles.

That said, I do collect first editions and I will continue to buy copies of books I cherish and want to have on my shelves as a physical keepsake or work of art. And I still read a lot of hard copy books that I’ve purchased from a bookstore or borrowed from a library.

Is there an electronic reader on your shopping list?

I bought a Kindle in the first few months after they were released by Amazon. We are planning to buy a second one for my wife.

Has the e-reader phenomenon affected your reading habits or those of someone you know? Are your reading habits changing because of e-readers and digital books?

Yes, as I mentioned I’m purchasing more books and I’m probably also reading more books in a particular topic area. The Kindle browser encourages you to do this by suggesting titles that are related to ones you have already purchased.

Do you prefer reading books on an e-reader, or in the traditional book form - or both?

I would say both. It’s hard to beat the convenience and access of an e-reader, but I still collect first editions and enjoy the experience of reading a physical book. And in my opinion, e-readers do not work well for textbooks or books where there are detailed illustrations, maps, diagrams or high resolution photographs.

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