Monthly Archives: September 2011

I gave in. I ordered an ebook reader.

Remember when DVDs first came out?

The problem with any new read-only entertainment technology is that there is always a chicken-and-egg situation. How many DVDs did you have before you bought your first DVD player? Or did you buy the player first and looked at it for a week before you bought any titles? I think ebook readers are a bit like this. It’s all very well being excited about a electronic gizmo, but the thing is for reading books and so when do you go on your first ebook buying spree? Before you buy the reader, or shortly after you’ve got it home and charged?

(Admittedly retailers of ebook readers have kind of recognised this problem and tend to ship them with a couple of “free” books. The ereader app on my smartphone came with Jane Eyre, The Art of War, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, A Tale Of Two Cities, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and several others. Something for everyone, or so the theory goes.)

One of the main reasons I haven’t leapt into ebook readers is that it’s difficult or expensive or both to buy some of the older titles I know I will read and re-read and would kinda like to have easily available. Classics like The HitchHiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, just to take a semi-random example that I actually went looking for.

But what I’ve discovered in the last few months is that it is new titles that are driving takeup of ebooks. Publishers are converting backlists, true, but this is a long, slow process. I originally approached ebook readers with a mentality of shifting from physical books to electronic, somewhat akin to the many people who “bought everything again” when shifting from movies on VHS to DVD. However, this is not going to be possible for a long time, perhaps never.

One of the really big advantages to the rise of ebooks is how much easier it is for writers to self-publish and to do giveaways. Ebooks traverse the Internet so much easier and cheaper than a book in the post and since I’ve started becoming involved with writers and writing groups, I’ve suddenly started acquiring ebooks. Sadly, I’m finding ebook readers on PCs are all terribly mediocre. Even some of the open-source ones. The idea of a dedicated ebook reader has therefore become attractive – even moreso since Woolworths started offering Amazon’s Kindle in-store. Someone has clearly realized that there is a substantial portion of the book-reading population that won’t buy one sight-unseen. As a result, Kindles amongst commuters are much more visible in the last month.

I nearly bought a Kindle myself, in fact. But I always knew it was going to be my second choice, because I much prefered the touch-interface on Sony’s ebook readers. I also don’t really like embracing Amazon’s platform, for much the same reason I won’t buy any Apple iDevices. However, the WiFi-only version is in short supply (it’s cheaper, you see). And Sony are between models, with the older ones impossible to find.

And then Sony quietly announced pre-orders for it’s next model, the PRS-T1. So I ordered one. It’s due to arrive on or before the 16th of October.

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A writer’s inspiration.

It’s been too long since I posted. And, really, a blog is supposed to have regular content, after all. Well, I think my sub-conscious is trying to tell me something.

I discovered yesterday that I had bought four books within two days. Four non-fiction books, none of which were inexpensive. Why did I do that? Even though I love reading, I haven’t bought new books in quantity for years. And then they’re usually fiction. Part of this is because I am still enjoying access to my existing book collection after some years with it packed up in boxes. Part of it is because there are other things I need to spend money on, like food, rent and electricity.

But I’m also trying to be a writer of fiction. And writers need inspiration.

Fiction writers also research. It was out of curiousity that I went looking for reference works in a local book store last Saturday, although I was also looking for a gift for my father. What I found was a book exploring human armour down through the ages. This appeals to me. Purchased. Then there was a book about wierd science stories, specifically about some of the lesser known chemical elements. Again, this appeals to me. Purchased. And then I saw a book about the history of the place I live in, including old photos and even maps. Win.

That’s three. The fourth? I buy a coffee at StarBucks most mornings on the way to work (yes, I like it) and I noticed a few weeks ago that Howard Schultz had published a book about Starbucks and was selling it through his stores. Which makes sense, really, rather than or perhaps as well as normal bookstore distribution. I had seen it for sale for several weeks and after my purchases on the weekend I realized that I really was curious enough to buy this. Actually, I realized that if I was still curious about it when it disappeared off the counter, I didn’t want to be put to the trouble of finding it. So, it was purchased.

I realised later that all of these books are for feeding my inner writer. I write hard fantasy and that needs good research as well as good story telling. It’s all very well re-reading a favourite author and hoping you’ll be able to copy his or her style, but you need other story-telling styles as well, of only for the contrast. And I’ve read enough fiction where the research is plainly inadequate – to a mere reader, no less – that I don’t want to make that mistake myself.

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