Digital Rot: How Rot Became an Ebook
By Michele Lee © 2009 All Rights Reserved
If you visit certain infamous internet message boards where horror fans hang out you’ve probably seen threads warmed with outrage on the digital takeover of publishing. It’s hard to miss them, since a new thread pops up almost every month. I try to comment, always the same point, when I can. But it seems some people just want to be angry.
The whole furor over the digital uprising is based on two core misunderstandings (much like most zombie uprising fiction is based on the idea of military experimentation gone wrong, and the failure of the people in charge to protect the little people who aren’t).
First is the idea that ebooks are taking over, that they are replacing print books, and at some vague point in the future paper and ink books (lovingly called “dead tree books” by some) will become extinct. This idea is ridiculous, at least it won’t be happening in our lifetimes because there are simply too many people who prefer print books.
I love print books. The smell, the feel, the look of a full bookshelf, not to mention the ability to take one to the pool or into the bathtub with me for a little R&R. I won’t stop buying print books, and neither will most of the population any time soon. So the market, made to fit the needs of the buyer, isn’t going to stop producing them any time soon.
But I love ebooks too, the neatness of them, the lower price, and the fact that if I don’t like the book I can just delete it and I haven’t saddled an unsuspecting friend or second hand buyer with a real stinker (yes, I am one of those people who don’t keep “bad” books on my shelf lest they infect all the good books I have). Not to mention I don’t have to dust ebooks and they’ll never be stacked so high in my room that they threaten to smother me.
Offering ebooks is not about some forced take over, it’s the same as offering an audiobook. It’s about offering the reader options. Some people find the eco-friendly ebook a huge relief. Some books, like novellas, novelettes and short stories, would never make it to print because of their length versus cost to print, but they make excellent ebooks. And some genres, particularly the more adult ones like erotic romance and horror, are perfect for ebooks because a digital file is easier to hide from underage or disapproving eyes.
Lastly, many borders and boundaries that existed twenty years ago simply don’t exist now. I have friends in Italy and Canada and Mexico that I speak to on a near-daily basis. Sometimes publishers don’t mail to these places. Sometimes it takes weeks or even months to get books from the States there. Sometimes it’s not even an option for a print book to land in one of those readers’ hands.
But ebooks easily cross those borders. Ebooks widen an author’s audience, literally, by being able to reach beyond the limits of print books. This is why I find offering ebook options vital to a publisher’s bottom line.
The second misunderstanding I see in common conversations about ebooks is that you must have a Kindle to read them. Again, this is an extremely limited point of view. First there’s the Sony ereader, which is cheaper and pretty awesome (based on my experience playing with a demo one at Borders). Then there are apps available that will turn any smart phone into an ebook reader.
Always forget your book and end up playing games or Twittering on your iPhone, wasting time? Now you can get an app and buy an ebook and spend that time waiting for a bus, or at the doctor’s office, or even in the bathroom reading that book you wanted to read instead.
There’s the old standby, computers, as well.
“But I don’t want to read books on a computer screen. It hurts my eyes.” Some say. Well fine, fantastic, there are books for you too. And even if the digital market keeps rising in popularity, smart publishers will still be here to cater to your preferences and your needs.
When I sold my zombie novella Rot to Skullvines Press one of the first things I said was “Would you consider releasing it in ebook form as well?” Giving readers that choice is important to me as an author.
The publisher wasn’t so sure. Didn’t ebooks make it easier to pirate? Well, books that never came out in ebook, like the Harry Potter series, are widely available on torrent websites. Being print only sure didn’t help those much.
Well, is the audience for ebooks really that significant? For that answer my publisher went to the owners of Horror-Mall.com which is one of the first horror genre sites to offer exclusive stories available just in ebook form from some of the biggest up-and-comers in the genre. What they learned was that in this down economy the digital books are some of the hottest sellers. The voices of horror might be saying “Woe! Ebooks are the end of us!” but the pocketbooks are saying “We like this!”
The ebook version of Rot is available through Horror-Mall.com for a mere $3.95. The digital version is bare bones, no art, just the story (which I certainly think is enough to entertain readers) but it is a small press, small print run, collectable style story that isn’t $50 for a limited leather bound, or $25 for a high quality hard back. It’s less than $4, less than the price of most magazines and mass market paperbacks.
Books want to be read, after all, and putting Rot out in digital form, in my opinion, helps it find a wider audience. Isn’t that what all authors want?
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“Michele Lee writes horror, science fiction and fantasy from the relative safety of her haunted house in the oldest section of Louisville, Ky. When she isn’t writing she reviews for The Fix, Monster Librarian, Dark Scribe and her own review blog, BookLove (from her website).”
Rot is now available from Skullvines Press in both Limited Trade Paperback and Ebook editions.
If you enjoyed this post, please check out Michele Lee’s other guest posts at Zoe Whitten’s, Jodi Lee’s, and Scott Colbert’s blogs. She has some great views on publishing, writing, and horror. Definitely worth the time to read.