“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Problem with "E" books



It's handy being able to download books on the Kindle.  It's difficult in some instances to know what you are getting.  If it's a case of an author you have read previously,  then at least you have some idea what to expect.  However, since the advent of self publishing , you really have no idea what you are buying until you buy it, then it's too late if it's a bust.

With print books,  you can assume a certain level of professionalism and competency was involved in publishing. The expectation that a good editor has corrected most of the glaring errors in the original manuscript, from a grammatical standpoint, is usually valid.

There are no guarantee's with E books.  I've purchased a few that I just quit reading, because the construction was just too jarring.

Then too, some of the books are appallingly bad.  No plot construction, no character development, no continuity in the flow of the story. But, you bought it and you are just stuck. There's no one sitting at the top to screen the manuscripts and take the one out of a hundred that merits publishing.

Another tendency I see in post apocalyptic fiction is the " E book" that is only a few chapters long. It's really a short story. Then the last page tells you to look for the next book coming out soon. I once bought six books by the same author, each of which just continued on with the story told in the proceeding books.  She wasn't a bad writer, but it was like trying to read Shogun or Centennial one chapter at a time, weeks apart.

The lastest example of a frustrating purchase on the download side is the book below.



I bought it based on the reviews.  The author is not a bad writer, and the editing is "good enough."

However, there are so many different characters, in three distinct time periods, that it is almost impossible to keep all of it in the proper relationship.  I don't want to spoil anything in case someone else reads it. Let me just say that in this book, at least, two of the different time periods and their characters contributed nothing to the main story.  In and of itself, if the author had been content to stick with his story line in the present time, he'd have been much better off.

And then, of course, the book ends after you've been reading for an hour, with the customary exhortation to buy the next volume.  I won't be.  This is one that just has too many problematic aspects for me to recommend it.  Most of them are inherent to the "E Book" world as far as I can tell.

I may just have to start going back to my old practice of thumbing through a book in a bookstore before I buy it.

14 comments:

  1. I don't have a kindle, so I don't know anything about e books. I read a ton, but tend to get my books at the library. And yes, I often randomly flip to a page, read it, and see if I am intrigued before I bother to check it out. Sometimes I also pull up reviews online. Life is too short to read lousy books.

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    1. Lisa, it's nice to be able to download books I want, instead of having to drive two hours one way to Chattanooga, or wait a week for the mail to deliver one. But the down side is that I do get some books that are pretty terrible. I would guess that out of the nearly 100 novels on my Kindle, 10 of them were good buys and the rest were a waste of money. Granted, an e book usually only costs a couple of dollars, but it's still frustrating.

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  2. Call me a Luddite, I like paper books. You can tell what you are getting at the book store.

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    1. I'm at that point in life where I'm giving away my books and magazines, trying to start cutting back on the things I will have to move if we leave here, or the kids will have to move eventually if we don't. So Kindle E books are good from that respect. Also, the nearest book store is a two hour drive from my house. But if those were not considerations, I'd stick with print books for the most part.

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  3. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)


    Damn Straight' I'm a luddite.

    I order used books online. Good old fashioned paper. Nothing like the feel of dead tree in my hands. It one of those things that will make a 'tree hugger cry' On a side note, I don't recycle either.
    I do however sell my used books back to a used book store. Unfourtunetly the local used book store attracts liberal's like maggots to a dead Coyote carcass. When I go in there its a struggle to keep my mouth shut.

    One thing I can say is that the last "used" book I bought online from an amazon reseller was 'one dollar' for the book, and four dollars shipping. I sold the book back for five dollars to the used book store.
    That's kinda the model I use now. Buy used at a discount online and sell back at almost the same price I paid total or for a little less and minimize the money spent.

    Damn, its good to be a capitalist.

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    1. Well, that's one way to do it. I like to keep books that are useful. I have a pretty large self sufficiency library, and my collection of gun related books is not small. However, when I moved here I had over 2000 hard back books on military history, which constituted my professional library from my years in the service. I have found homes for most of those now. As long as you want to read a book once and that's it, your system is a good one. Here, I can't give books to the library because they only want paperback yellow press bodice rippers, so my history books are not welcome there. And there's certainly no place around here to sell them.

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  4. our boys have kindles but they only use them for free games from amazon. I have downloaded books but the boys hate reading them because the screen is so small...

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    1. That's a problem, true enough. I have to wear reading glasses anyway these days, and to read on the Kindle I had to buy a particularly powerful pair.

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  5. Interestingly, given the low bar for admission into 'authorship' these days, I've been toying with the idea of trying my hand at fiction. Having read just about every end of the world story out there I figure I know what tropes have been overdone, what scenarios have been underplayed, and what ideas haven't been explored fully. I was a journalism major for too many years so I like to think I could punctuate my way out of a wet paper bag if I had to.

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    1. Why not, if you have the time. It doesn't cost anything. At worst, it will be a good exercise, at best you might develop a following , become famous within the self sufficient community, and make a few shekels into the bargain.

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    2. Well, of course there's a downside....crushing humiliation, eternal ridicule, and a high degree of self-loathing and shame if it gets horrible reviews.

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  6. Harry,

    I've had the same problem with my kindle. I'm finding a couple of book bargain sites that have better selections. They aren't free but marked down. I also will NOT use kindle for any sort of reference book. Too hard to navigate for me. I need that turned down page for that.

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    1. I actually like using the Kindle for reference work because you can highlight the text in just about any color you want. It does take some getting used to, and if you are more comfortable with print books I can understand that. I used to say I would never read an ebook but I do now.

      There are lots of good free book sites on the web, mostly they are books in which the copyright has long since expired, like Robinson Crusoe or Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

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  7. The school I work at has talked about getting books online. They have computers to put them on. I wouldn't mind if that was the case. It's less expensive than hardcover books. The problem is that not all publishers are consistent, we wouldn't be able to get all the books from the same place. In one of my classes I got out of a book fee altogether. I found a whole website that has podcasts on the subject I teach. I give them worksheets, they listen, and fill them out.

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