Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Kindle-Loving Author's Lament for Paper Books

Oh, Rhett! How I miss my beautiful back cover.
It's the week before launch. Which means I've been busy working on distribution. Thursday I'll pick up the 106 "real books" (i.e., physical copies) of The Beresfords from the awesome folks at Gorham Printing in Centralia, which should cover launch parties and stocking local University Book Store, but for those of you who can't attend a launch or who never visit brick-and-mortar bookstores anymore, I've also been getting the Amazon Print-on-Demand version going and the Kindle and Nook ebooks.

I don't have many gripes about POD--the quality is fine, and I do appreciate not having to stock physical copies. If I could change anything, it would be having a matte option for the cover and to not be charged sales tax (!) when I order my own books for resale.

But I do mourn the ebook versions of all my novels. And I say this as an avid Kindle reader! At least half of my reading happens on the Kindle, but I do wonder if, out there, other authors are shedding tears over ebook versions of their precious babies.

Why mourn the ebook versions? I give you five reasons:

  1. My beautiful cover! Yes, the Kindle and Nook offer a thumbprint version, but Kathy Campbell did a lovely job, and details are lost when the image is shrunk down--"wood-grain" swirls, the cool Readers Group dealie and such. When reading physical books, we naturally see the book covers much more. I miss that. Yes, I can "Go To" the cover, but it's a nuisance. And, on the Kindle at least, Amazon starts you automatically at Chapter One, not the cover. Wah.
  2. My beautiful back cover! Where else can you find the synopsis, blurbs, author bio/pic all in one place, and so artfully laid out? I love that stuff--it's one reason library hardbacks with no dustcover annoy me. Not to mention books with just an enormous author photo taking up the whole back cover. (I'm looking at you, Danielle Steel.)
  3. The flawless formatting! Having used Adobe InDesign to do my own text formatting for the printed version, I spent time. There were page breaks where they oughtta be. Section breaks. Chapter Breaks. There was nary a widow or orphan to be found. Everything just so. Well, lovely formatting goes out the window in ebook versions. Why? Because the reader can adjust the font size, so text has to flow. Therefore widows and orphans appear constantly. All the breaks get messed up. Bizarre stuff just makes its way in. We've all had the experience of reading ebooks where sudden weird characters or formatting just appear like a bloom of water damage or spilled coffee on a physical book.
  4. The special fonts and visual treats. The Beresfords features some handwritten letters and even a graduation invitation, all presented beautifully in the physical book. Alas, Kindle only offers two font types (Courier and Times New Roman, I think) and no fancy layout (see point #3). Therefore, the ebook version of Caroline Grant's correspondence with Frannie shows up as--drumroll, please!--italics. Nor could the Nook handle funky characters, such as one finds in Slobodan Milosevich (Blogger can't handle them either). So, Slobodan, if you download my book on Kindle, I want you to know that I got all the kooky accent marks and funny letters in your name right in my printed book.
  5. And my final cause for lament: in the ebooks I can't control what I want the reader to see. (See #1.) I learned this from my last book Everliving. At a book club I discovered that the Kindle readers weren't even aware the book had epigraphs!(!!!) I loved those danged epigraphs. They meant something. They added to the reader's understanding. No matter--the Kindle kicked off the book at "Chapter One," and everything that came before was skipped over. (You will see in The Beresfords that I have learned. Pertinent quotes now take place after the words "Chapter One.") I can cram other info for the reader at the end of the book, following the text, but if the reader doesn't remember there's a Readers Guide (because he never sees the front cover), he might just stop reading at the end of the story and ditch the rest.
Okay. Done weeping and gnashing my teeth. I look forward to seeing many of you at Saturday's launch. If you can't make it, I'll have copies on me, but remember that University Book Store ships and gift-wraps for free, and their copies will be the same price as the POD version on Amazon.

 Or, just download it after May 5 to your Kindle or Nook. But remember--you've been warned!


  1. OK, OK, OK - so I'll buy one (1) physical copy of your book at the book launch instead of getting the Kindle version. At least then I can also get an autograph from the author! This should have been reason #6...

  2. Ha ha! Billie, I know you love your iPad. I just wanted all my electronic readers to KNOW the book was nicer than what they were seeing. You are absolutely free to download, and I'll just sign your cupcake wrapper.