E-book Revolution Keeping It Short
I recently spoke as part of a panel at Borders in Pleasanton, where a gentleman suggested that the e-book revolution would usher in books that had shorter content. This is interesting because there is a sense that, particularly when writing for the younger audience, let’s arbitrarily say under 35, these readers only want what is essential to the plot. Oh Professor Tolkien, forget taking three pages to describe a specific part of a particular forest, as beautiful as it was.
So I can’t really say that I was surprised to see this article, though I admit to feeling a bit sad. Jenna Wortham admits that she embraces, even loves technology. She is armed with iPad and iPhone and possibly has downloaded the Kindle to her, I’m guessing here, mac book.
Yet, Ms. Wortham admits that she has failed thus farin her New Year’s resolution to read an entire e-book from beginning to end. She has even invested $30 in e-books in order to fulfill this goal (it’s only February, Ms. Wortham).
Ms. Wortham then proceeds to tell us of various companies that are releasing very short books, or embellished articles, still allowing you to pay and download. I will leave you to read her excellent coverage of such options.
Some of the companies that she mentions include: The Atavist, Push Pop Press, Cursor and Byliner, Even Amazon.com has introduced Kindle Singles which is a catalog of one-off essays and short stories.
While I understand that we as authors need to acknowledge that many readers have a short attention span that might actually be connected to the use of screens, I do feel a need to spring to our (the novelist’s) defense. I admit that, having just read all four volumes of a fantasy trilogy (that’s 1,600 pages, not 1,200 +/- as I expected), I like the idea of reading a few books that are quick with straight-to-the-cut plots.
However, my 12-year-old son, who loves his Nintendo DS and his Wii, is happy to read such tomes of fantasy, in fact he devours them. So maybe it is a question of quality rather than quantity.
Two people recently told me that they read The Accidental Activist on their e-book readers during a cross-country trip (I mean by this taking planes, this blog does not endorse reading from your E-reader while driving, you might miss some nuances in the plot). Admittedly, Activist is only about 60,000 words, but they read it from start to finish in a short space of time. The Accidental Activist is an example of a novel that where only what is specific to the plot avoided my editor’s knife. Perhaps it is an issue of style and pace.
And so, Ms. Wortham, please let me help you. Before the winter holiday season, Amazon.com began a gift process, where you can buy an e-book and send it on to a friend. I will sacrifice the huge royalties that I will make on my $3.99 e-book to help you keep your New Year resolution.
It’s not that I am a great believer in New Year Resolutions (every year I resolutely fail not to make my own list), it is that I am a big believer in the electronic book. My enthusiasm comes from the environmental aspects of the e-book .v. tree-book dilemma, and I am happy to try to convert one more bookworm away from the dark side.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/