The eBook Dilemma

The eBook Dilemma

Every reader has their quirks. Some people collect hardbound books like library treasures. They’re aiming for a leather and gilt trove you usually only see in the movies. (Of course, they usually never READ those books; they’re strictly for show) Other readers stick to paperbacks. And they have different reasons. The softcovers take up less room on a shelf, allowing you to stack more in a smaller space. They weigh less, meaning less risk of a buckling shelf. And, of course, the cost comes in lower, so you can purchase twice as many. (Or is that my logic coming through?)

Then you have the genuine book snobs.

They want every volume to match. So they’ll hunt down covers by the same artist – regardless of cost. If a publisher decides to change printing format mid-way through a series, they have a meltdown. When new volumes get released years down the road that feature a design on the spine, they splurge and re-buy the entire series. Every book on their shelves is the same height. They sort by color (or some other insane logic). When you come over, they proudly show you their card catalogue – and ask you to fill out a card when you borrow one of their books.

Books are precious to readers. You can’t break spines, crease pages, or spill anything on them. If one of us see you abusing a piece of literary treasure, we’ll hastily provide you with one of the thousands of bookmarks we’ve accumulated over the years. And while we don’t hesitate to share our favorite stories with you, letting a book out of our hands is beyond difficult.

And I’m not different.

If you’re a favorite author of mine? I buy your work in hardback. New authors I haven’t taken a risk on yet? You’re in paperback. Everything’s organized in alphabetical order. So you’ll see varying heights and sizes along the shelves. Depending on when I fell in love with an author, the covers may or may not “match.” (And, no, I’m not wasting time and money chasing down the matching spines) Manga’s organized alphabetically by title, rather than author. And the same goes for my comics and light novels. Quirky? Yes. But not THAT out there. Where I drew the line was when eBooks hit.

I HATED the idea. How could anyone NOT want to hold a book and cover their walls in shelves? Who wanted to throw out the smell of printed paper? Not to mention the nonsense of tapping a screen in favor of turning a page, feeling parchment between your fingers. I rebelled and sneered. There was no way I was EVER going to bend and get one of those ridiculous things. Instead, I proudly proclaimed that I’d be the woman in Fahrenheit 451, burning alive in a house stuffed to the rafters with books.

Until some of my favorite writers sucker-punched me.

They wrote novellas ONLY available in eBook format. I understood the logic, too: publishers don’t want to spend money on novellas. They’re not worth the cost. But eBooks? They don’t require paper or ink. For months, I agonized and stared at the little note next to the cover on the Amazon listing. And, finally, with gritted teeth, I brought home a Nook. Of course, I assured anyone who’d listen (and even some who didn’t), the tablet was strictly for those books I couldn’t reach any other way.

And, for the most part, that’s what the poor device has served for. Any time I stumbled upon something I couldn’t find in any other format, it went onto my Kindle app. Where other people I know turned to their eBooks to save on weight and space in their luggage when traveling, I continue to have no qualms with hauling half a library around with me. I refused to compromise on my book standards. No way was I buying an electronic version of a book I wanted for “convenience.”

Funny how the Universe gets to you sometimes.

By accident, I didn’t pay attention to the book type on my Wish List a few months ago. So when I went to purchase it, I was confused when it said I could read it immediately (rather than offering a shipping option). Turns out, I’d picked the Kindle version. Annoyed, I rolled my eyes and grumbled that I’d get around to reading it eventually. And then I forgot about it. Well, until I could only find the Kindle version of one of the comic volumes I wanted to read, and I noticed a “New” tag on two covers in the Kindle library. But, again, I wasn’t interested in reading it at that moment.

Fast forward to this weekend when I discovered that roller skating is not like riding a bike. I sprained my left shoulder. And while I’d started Keeper of the Lost Cities: Nightfall over the weekend, attempting to lift the book wasn’t possible. All I got was pain. Probably because the volume weighs almost 1.5 POUNDS! My love for a physical book suddenly presented a real problem. I couldn’t NOT read before bed, though.

Which was when I remembered the Nook. And the case with a stand. Grudgingly, I admitted the eBook was useful in that situation. And while it took a little bit of resettling to find a way to tap the side of the screen to “turn the pages,” I finally ended up comfortable – and able to read.

I’m not ready to abandon my shelves and shelves (and shelves) of books by any means. But I CAN see a reason to allow the occasion electronic volume to slip through my fingers. Just in case.

Literary Homicide

Literary Homicide

Does anyone else get jabbed in the side during movies for muttering, “That’s not how it is in the book?” (At least, if you’re polite, you mutter. Sometimes it slips out at a higher volume because you can’t restrain yourself due to outrage) Or maybe you walk out of a theatre with intense back pain because you slouched lower and lower in the seat, mortally embarrassed for your favorite author, beloved characters, and a treasured fandom. Not to mention, you’ve had to grin and apologize uncountable times to the person in front of you for stomping your foot every time someone screwed up a line or behaved so far out of context, your body reacted without thought.

It’s appalling!

And Hollywood loves doing this. They destroy our favorite books left, right, and center. It’s almost to the point that you start to believe they’ve hired someone who’s only job is sitting in a corner of the room, plotting how to unravel plots, twist characters, and murder classic lines. The Anti-Author, if you will. Maybe other people in the audience don’t realize what’s going on (other than to whine they don’t understand what the hype is about said book), but YOU know. And you slowly hemorrhage as hundreds of potential readers turn their backs on a work of literary genius. All courtesy of the Anti-Author.

Friends and family grew so tired of my endless diatribes against poor film adaptations, they refused to go to the movies with me. Hell, they wouldn’t even sit in a living room with me if they knew I’d read the book already. And I couldn’t blame them or get upset about it. I felt personally victimized by the actions of a bunch of Hollywood executives sitting in a back room, hacking apart my favorite fictional pieces. Seeing that “Soon to be a Motion Picture” sticker on a book in the store? That felt like a knife in the guts.

I needed a new habit.

Rather than feeling my blood pressure reach stroke level, I decided to flip the order of things. Any book that caught my interest courtesy of a movie or television trailer stayed on the shelf until AFTER sitting through Hollywood’s version. But I promised myself not to let that version taint my opinion. (After all, I was intrigued enough to consider it, and odds were pretty high I’d already skimmed the book jacket) Even if I rolled my eyes through the movie and left with a sour taste in my mouth (*cough* Artemis Fowl *cough*), I determined to return to the book after. Usually because I was so convinced there was NO WAY the author was THAT bad.

It’s a system that’s served me well about 99% of the time. (There are exceptions to every rule, and that 1% proves that sometimes even Hollywood can’t make something better) Instead of driving everyone crazy in a semi-quiet theatre – a rant for another time – I can wait, blithely innocent of every twist and turn with the rest of the audience. And THEN I can prattle on about everything Hollywood got wrong once I’ve devoured the book…depending on who I can track down and get to hold still long enough to listen.

But it isn’t a perfect system.

Sometimes those magic makers get sneaky. They decide to turn pieces into film that I’ve already read. It’s a wrinkle in the system that I can’t account for. (NOT reading isn’t an option) For instance, the Shadow and Bone trilogy. I started my usual grumble-fest – until my husband looked at me and told me he was enjoying the series. He hadn’t read the books, but I HAD. So I bit my tongue. (And, honestly, on the scale of adaptations, it’s not bad)

Then there are a few times I’ve been TERRIFIED to watch a movie because of how fantastic a book was. I didn’t want to witness the burning destruction of a phenomenal piece of literature. But those teasers and trailers are SO tempting. They crawl under your skin with appropriate lines, glimpses of characters better than you imagined, and hints of accurate plot. So I braced myself for disappointment – which never came. A Monster Calls and The Fault in Our Stars? They got it right. I’d read the books before the movies hit theatres. And I didn’t want my emotions shattered. (We won’t touch on the fact that either one will cripple you emotionally on their own) But someone hog-tied the Anti-Author in both instances. Because the films created the same depth of feeling the books did.

So while there might be some bugs in my system (and an occasional exception to the rule), it’s kept me from losing my cool as often. And I don’t have as many bruises on my ribs. It DOES mean I have to wait to read certain books, which is frustrating. But when you balance a potential stroke against a little delay? Yeah, health ranks higher.

End Reading Shaming

End Reading Shaming

My current To Be Read pile

My parents had a simple philosophy when we were growing up: “reading is reading.” They never confined us to a specific section of the bookstore, and they never took a book out of our hands because it wasn’t “age-appropriate.” (Unlike several librarians I can name) Which is why I bypassed what would now be considered the Young Readers section by the age of 8, moving on the Fantasy & Science Fiction section. (Young Adult wasn’t a thing back then)

I’ve held to that philosophy throughout my life. Simply put, I read what piques my interest. I don’t care what section the book comes from. Why should I? I write speculative fiction. My worlds don’t exist in reality. My ideas come from anything and everything. As such, I explore EVERY possibility. That means reading every possibility.

People give me the strangest looks in the store.

I grew up watching Anime. As such, I love Manga. Some I read because I loved the Anime and want to compare the original comic. (If you’ve only ever made fun of Sailor Moon, you don’t know the beauty you’re missing out on) Some are hauntingly bewitching in their art and make me cry no matter how often I read them (Full Moon o Sagashite). Others I’ve become so obsessed with, I’ve started learning Japanese because I can’t stand the fact I have to wait AN ENTIRE YEAR between volumes (Skip-Beat – my sister’s to blame for getting me started on that one).

Japan has light novels, which combine gorgeous drawings with writing. Anime usually follow these creations. They’re shelved in the same section, and I have a host of those I follow. Typically, they’re released faster than Manga, so my wait time is shorter. Sword Art Online was my first obsession here, and I’ve followed the series through multiple story arcs.

But I’m not a teenager, so people stare.

I write in the YA genre. Logic says read what you write. Okay, fuck logic – there’s amazing YA out there. The majority of what I read these days is YA. I stalk certain authors (Cassandra Clare, Rin Chupeco, Sarah J. Maas, S.J. Kincaid, Merissa Meyer) through Amazon so I know when their books are hitting the shelves. While that section isn’t my first stop in the store, I do always end up there eventually. I take risks on new authors in the YA section – something I’m usually loathe to do in other sections. I can’t explain why other than to say the blurbs are more appealing and the cover art is better. (I don’t listen to book reviewers – sorry) The majority of authors I buy hardback books from are YA authors.

However, not a young adult, so people give me strange looks.

And don’t get me started on the alarmed looks when I hit up the Young Readers section. Let me explain something to the uneducated: a book is considered a “Young Reader” because of the age of the characters in the book. That’s it. Which is why His Dark Materials is shelved there, despite the fact the religious debate and concept of duality in human nature are WAY over the heads of most children Lyra’s age. I re-read my copy and marvel every time at nuances I’ve missed (and laugh hysterically that I had to hunt the book down in that section – it is in the YA section now).

Have you ever been over there? There are ENORMOUS books over there! There are amazing books in that section! Read the blurbs sometimes. The worlds an characters – they’re phenomenal! Artemis Fowl is one of the best antiheroes I’ve encountered in a long time! If you skip the section because it’s next to Dr. Seuss (and, seriously, why are you NOT reading Dr. Seuss?), you’re missing out. Brave the looks and walk your butt over there.

Stop reading shaming!

READING IS READING! Where you pick up a well-written book shouldn’t matter. Comics (totally love Spider-Gwen/Ghost Spider and Harley Quinn) your thing? Fine! (If you feel a need to call them Graphic Novels to make yourself feel elevated, whatever works for you) Children’s books? Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is one of the best things I’ve ever read.

I don’t understand this need to put people in a box. Bookstores are OPEN. Libraries are OPEN. Stop shuttling people into sections like cattle. Let people explore and find new ideas, new authors. I put everything I read up on my Goodreads feed – I’m not ashamed! I’M A READER! I pull out anything and everything for my niece and nephew, exposing them to the best books that have crossed my paths. I want them to be readers, and I don’t want them to be afraid to explore.

If you’ve never left your “section” for fear of the LOOKS, try it. You’re missing out by confining yourself. Pick up a new book, a new author. You won’t regret it, I promise you.

Written Word

Written Word

One of my personal bookcases.

Look at the image above and tell me what you see – what you really see if you look close. I could get dozens of answers, but I doubt I’ll get the one I’m looking for. Yes, there are all of the following:

  • Pictures
  • Stuffed toys
  • Old type-set tiles (if you actually said that you have incredible eyes…or you’ve been in my house, and I might be a little scared if I don’t know you)
  • Books

Those are easy answers, though, and they aren’t answers stated by true writers. What do I see?

A million possible story ideas.

Okay, yes, there are hundreds of stories sitting right, there – I know that (and, yes, I have hundreds of books. I refuse to subscribe to that nonsense that you should own less than thirty books; that is absolute crap). What I’m talking about is the fact that each one of those books contains the possibility of sparking hundreds of ideas in and of themselves. Not the fact that each story is based on a story itself – we all know that there are no original stories – but the actual words themselves.

Every written word!

Crazy, right? It’s true, though! I have seen a word or phrase in a book and felt that shiver of inspiration go through me. In the past month, reading two different books, I have felt the spark for THREE different short stories from just a handful of WORDS! The words weren’t even integral to the plots of what I was reading! Something in the order they were arranged connected the right synapses in my writing brain, though, and BAM! Idea central!

It can be that simple if you stop and think about it. After all, writers and first and foremost READERS. We’re fascinated by words (if we weren’t we wouldn’t be writers). We’re drawn to words like magnets, and we focus on them everywhere around us. I have friends who came up with stories after seeing signposts along the road!

So before you do something insane like whittle your book collection down because some insane person thinks thirty is a rational limit (seriously?! Only thirty?!), think about what you could be sacrificing. There is inspiration potential lurking on those shelves, waiting to be found. If you give that up for the sake of…okay, I can’t think of any reason a person would sacrifice that kind of gold mine. Seriously, there is always somewhere you can stack up more books. Get rid of something you don’t need like extra shoes or clothes.