Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

The Only Way is eBooks?

ereaderLove them or hate them, ebooks and ereaders are here to stay, having arrived in our lives with dizzying speed.  The journey from cumbersome curiosity owned by a few to essential companion of millions has taken less than five years and revolutionized the world of publishing.

Many diehard “real book” readers have been won over by how easy they are to use, load with books and carry around – not to mention the sheer novelty of being able to hold an entire library between your thumb and forefinger.  Authors frustrated by conventional publishing are gleefully ploughing their own furrows – having fun and making money into the bargain – and canny publishers are themselves getting in on the act, converting their bestsellers into digital downloads, sometimes with very uneven results, betraying the speed with which they were hustled onto the market.  Sales of erotica and romantic novels have soared – because sitting on a train with an ereader, you could be reading anything, from Proust to pornography, and no-one is any the wiser (which only goes to show how many people chose their ‘public’ reading matter with appearances in mind).

All is not golden in the digital publishing field however.   For one thing, books that would (and should) never otherwise have seen the light of day are flooding onto the market. Circumnavigating agents and editors and publishers is all very fine and dandy, but the results vary from the breathtakingly good to the truly god-awful.

For another, High Street book shops – already struggling – are inevitably suffering in the ebook revolution and naturally Amazon is doing what it does best: threatening total world domination with its all-conquering family of Kindles.

Plus, of course, many people simply HATE the whole idea.

We’re certainly witnessing a revolution, but are we also witnessing the death of ‘real’ books, or will ebooks and ereaders sales find their own level once the novelty has worn off and people discover that you can’t rid an ereader of bath water by draping it over a heater?

Here on Vulpes Libris we have quietly been reviewing ebooks for a couple of years, but we thought that the time had come to tackle the subject head on, which is why, from the 21st of May, we will be running a series of features, reviews, interviews and opinion pieces on all things ebook.

We’re still working on the final schedule for the week (which looks as if it might turn into a fortnight), but among items definitely on offer will be:

Anne Brooke – who has embraced epublishing with characteristic enthusiasm – will be explaining exactly what the digital revolution means for her and writers like her.

Jackie Hixon proud owner of a Nook, will be looking at the pros and cons of ebooks versus print books.

Also joining us:

The Coffee Crew: A group of friends who are also successful, published romance writers, who gather to share professional news and views, critique each other’s work and motivate and inspire. They have now also branched into ebooks and will be telling us how, why and how well it’s working.

Richard Ommanney:  The television scriptwriter and comedy script consultant, who published his first novel – Jerome’s Angel on Kindle.  We will be both reviewing the novel and talking to Richard about his life, his work and why he chose Kindle:

Most publishers will only consider submissions if they come via an agent, and unfortunately my agent only deals with screenwriting. So no publisher has been approached yet. But obviously I would like Jerome’s Angel to be published some day. When I heard about Kindle publishing it seemed like a great opportunity to test the water. I’m flattered by your comment that you’ve never read another book quite like it. But that may prove a problem in marketing terms where catch-all labels like Romcom, Vampires, Thriller, Chick Lit etc are preferred. But I guess Romcom would be the label that comes closest. Jerome’s Angel is, above all, about the power of love and everyone’s need for it. A huge advantage of ebooks is that potential readers can read the first couple of chapters for free. If they’re not hooked on Jerome’s journey by then, or his mother’s, they never will be.

As a bit of a teaser, this afternoon we’ll be publishing an extract from Jerome’s Angel … following the story of young Jerome Belfrage and his mother Hortense in their tragi-comic, haphazard search for love and fulfilment in eccentric middle England.

(To read the extract, please click HERE.)

(ereader image courtesy of on Flickr, reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.)

7 comments on “The Only Way is eBooks?

  1. Alan Cleaver
    April 30, 2012

    “For one thing, books that would (and should) never otherwise have seen the light of day are flooding onto the market” – I’m not sure anyone (agent, publisher or Moira from Vulpes Libris!) should have the power to say what should or shouldn’t be published. I’ve often wondered how many great works have been lost because publishers rejected them in the past (thank goodness JK Rowling didn’t give up after her tenth rejection slip). But readers do need some way to decide whether it’s a good book or not – and the simplest may is simply having a preview chapter.

  2. Moira
    April 30, 2012

    I have a perfect right to say it Alan … and you have a perfect right to argue with me. 🙂

    Preview chapters do help enormously, of course … but aren’t necessarily representative of the whole book. It’s a problem with ebooks, of course – that you can’t pick them up and thumb through them …

  3. Hilary
    April 30, 2012

    It will be interesting to explore the limitations of ebooks, as well as their joys. For instance, I don’t think that the way to present the apparatus in a non-fiction book has yet been fully cracked.

    Anyhow, I’m certain this will be a great theme fortnight – can’t wait!

  4. I’m looking forward to it! eBooks have given me the boost – and the freedom – I needed. I’ve been let down by conventional publishers too often to have any faith in their abilities to ‘nurture’ writers. And it strikes me in any case that nurturing is for babies – what I needed was a businesslike relationship. But I should save all that for your eBook week. What I really wanted to say was that with Kindle, you can download a book, skim through it, and give it back if it doesn’t suit. This is as well as being able to download a sample. Hilary’s point about non-fiction has been true, but is changing – Kindle Fire and other developments are already addressing some of the problems. I’ve just finished reading a book by Clay Shirky, called Cognitive Surplus, which should probably be required reading for writers before they embark on eBook publishing. Not that it is about publishing, as such, but it’s a beautifully written, clear, incisive analysis of how these online tools allow us to create and collaborate.

  5. Moira
    April 30, 2012

    You can give them back if you think they don’t suit? How extraordinary. Just shows how much I have to learn about Kindle. But … what’s to stop you buying a book, reading it, thoroughly enjoying it and claiming your refundanyway? I am both amazed and confused …

  6. You have seven days – (just looked it up) and I suppose you could do just that. But for most self published books, which are priced quite low – people don’t do it. It’s not an issue, except in a few cases and I reckon most of those are doing what you would do in a bookshop – skimming, deciding it’s not for them and putting it back. People tend to buy a number of eBooks and then read them at leisure – I know I do. My Kindle is currently stuffed with books I want to read – I need a holiday, I think. And of course once you’ve got a book you’ve got it – even if your dog eats your Kindle.

  7. Phillipa Ashley
    May 1, 2012

    “You can give them back if you think they don’t suit? How extraordinary. Just shows how much I have to learn about Kindle. But … what’s to stop you buying a book, reading it, thoroughly enjoying it and claiming your refundanyway? I am both amazed and confused ”

    Agree, Moira

    As an author, I think the sample chapter should be enough – giving back a whole book seems to be an unworkable system as how would any writer make money if everyone did this? It would be like asking for your money back after a play or cinema film or after touring a stately home or riding the rides at a theme park….you’ve had the experience even if you didn’t like it! Unless the e book is actually faulty or you have downloaded by mistake I wouldn’t do it, personally.,

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This entry was posted on April 30, 2012 by in eBooks and tagged , , , , , , , .



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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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