I want to start by thanking Glenn Reynolds for the link to yesterday’s blog and welcome all his readers from Instapundit. Pull up a chair, relax and enjoy your favorite virtual cup of coffee or other morning beverage.
It still amazes me how publishers and agents can cry foul when Amazon — or any other entity for that matter — encroaches on what they see as their territory. It amazes me because it truly shows just how disconnected the legacy publishers and others are from the realities brought on by new technology and the change in reader demands. Right now, these publishers are crying “foul!” because Amazon is trying to make them unnecessary in the road to publication. They say they offer so many things of value to the writer, and the reading public, that Amazon and others can’t. But, as I said yesterday, these very same benefits they tout are the ones they gave up on long ago: quality editing and proofreading, formatting, promotion, etc. This is especially true when it comes to e-books, the same e-books these publishers say cost as much to produce as the hard copy that is being released at the same time. I could go one, but my friend Dave Freer has said it much more eloquently than I can over at Mad Genius Club.
What I do know is that legacy publishers are cutting their own throats, especially when it comes to the e-book market. I’m not just talking price here, even though the majority of people don’t want to pay the same price for an e-book that they do for a hard cover and most of them don’t even want to pay the price of a paperback for an e-book. Nor can I blame them, especially not when the legacy publishers view the e-book not as a book at all, but as a license. They fill the e-book with DRM, which is expensive to the publisher and insulting to the reader/customer. With DRM, you are limited to the type and number of devices you can read the book on. Try to read it on an unsupported device and you can’t. Want to break DRM, you’re called a pirate by the publishers. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy toward those publishers, doesn’t it?
These same publishers say they are paying extra, a lot extra if you believe them, to convert that next best seller into an e-book. If that’s the case, I’d expect there to be no problems with the formatting or layout of the e-book and I’d sure as heck expect it to have been proofread so there are no misspellings, etc. Guess what, it’s more than likely that you’ll find errors in the e-book. For some reason, they seem to pop off the screen at you much more than they do off the printed page. At least they do for me. I’ve even checked printed versions of books when I’ve found errors in the kindle version and, yep, those errors are on the printed page as well. I’m not talking indie books here. I’m talking books printed by the big six publishers. so where’s that wonderful quality control they’re talking about?
But it isn’t all gloom and doom in publishing. I was pleased this morning to see the news that there will be two publishers focusing on books for middle grade kids. The first is from Algonquin and will focus on the YA and middle grade markets and is expected to debut the end of next year. While I wish it was happening soon, I’m thrilled to see anyone who knows there is a hole in the middle grade market and wants to fill it. I just hope they fill it with books that are fun to read — and that therefore encourage kids to read them — instead of books that are all “socially relevant” and written in styles that send the kids running from them just as fast as they can.
The second is the one that really excites me because it is aimed at boys. I’ve gotten so tired of hearing that boys don’t read. They do. These people who are supposedly in the know might be surprised if they climbed down from their ivory towers and actually looked at what middle grade boys. The problem hasn’t been that they don’t read. It’s that they haven’t had nearly enough well-written and FUN books to read. It’s my hope that this new venture will provide just that. At least Move Books’ slogan is encouraging: “Moving Boys to Read”. Eileen Robinson, publisher of Move Books, gets it, in my opinion. Here’s what she had to say about how her nine year old son was inspiration for this new venture: “He struggled as a reader, and it was difficult to find books that would grab his attention, make him laugh, and make him want to read on his own. . . He and his friends seem to be drawn more to nonfiction, and like a lot of boys, they tend to read for information more than for pleasure. I am hoping that the novels Move Books publishes will provide that pleasure, and will encourage boys to pick them up rather than turn to a video game.” Well said, Ms. Robinson. Well said.
So, here’s a hat tip to those who recognize the need to encourage our middle schoolers, especially the boys, to read. And here’s a swift kick in the pants to those publishers and agents who seem to think we can put the genie back in the bottle and go back to publishing like it was fifty years ago.