What’s on your e-reader?

It's soooooo pretty. My precious.....

Everyone knows that the revolution has begun. E-readers have broken through and they’re here to stay. Every day I see promos on G+ and Facebook, telling me to download a free e-book. It’s a new idea in the publishing world, giving away the whole product free for a limited time in the hopes of generating future sales. But does it work?

I got my Kindle Fire for Christmas, and despite some initial hiccups, I love it. Wouldn’t be parted from it. It came with nothing loaded except the user manual, and that was NOT going to hold my attention for long.

I had already installed the Kindle app on my PC and phone, so I had a couple of books to transfer. One was a Social Media Marketing  guide, which hasn’t been worth the paper it wasn’t printed on.* The other was Blake Snyder’s  “Save the Cat!” about which I have raved elsewhere.

“Save the Cat!” is great, but it’s not something I want to curl up with at night. I wanted to read “The Hunger Games” to see what all the fuss was about, and my wife wanted to read it too. I bought a paperback and downloaded the e-book. The fun part was reading on my kindle and then continuing to read the book on my phone on breaks at work, or waiting for the weasels after school. The kindle and the kindle app make notes of how far you’ve read, so if all works out well, you should be reading seamlessly no matter the platform.

The first free e-book was a big disappointment. It was from a reputable source, but the writing was cliched and hackneyed, it has spelling and grammatical errors and the storyline was slow, unbelievable and unengaging. I still have not reached the end of the book, and will probably delete it.

I bought “Ender’s Game” having picked up one of the sequels from the library. The library couldn’t get hold of the original for a while, and the ebook was cheap. Plus it wouldn’t be taking up any space on my bookshelves, so I clicked the button. I was delighted to hear they’re making a movie, because that should being the book back to the forefront of the public consciousness for a while. I highly recommend it, and the shadow series that go with it. I didn’t get on with the direct sequels, “Xenocide” and “Children of the Mind” because of their more philosophical nature, but “Ender’s Game”, “Ender’s Shadow”, “Shadow of the Giant” and the other shadow novels were excellent.

So, up to this point, the only free promotion had been a negative experience. I was downloading e-boook versions of books I may have found elsewhere, or bought in physical form at a later date. The same was true of my purchase of the excellent “Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi, but there is something worth noting here. I had not read a review of “Old Man’s War”, nor seen a promotion, or word-of-mouth recommendation. I knew about it only through reading Scalzi’s blog, which I found through an arcane search-engine string. Once I found it, I became a regular visitor, and added Scalzi to my circles on G+ (which, naturally, lead me back to his blog more frequently.) I really, really enjoyed “Old Man’s War”, which directly lead to my purchase of the sequel , “Ghost Brigades“. Here’s the internet phenomenon in action – a personal connection to the author via his blog has prompted book sales.

The same is true of Chuck Wendig. He’s been flagged up to me by various encounters in comments sections, and I found him on G+ too. I follow his blog, and took a fly on his book “Double Dead“. It’s grim but good (Vampire and zombie apocalypse…what are you expecting here?) and as a bonus, he gave away copies of his novella “Shotgun Gravy”. I enjoyed that one so much that I’ll be buying the three follow-up stories. A free giveaway that has prompted sales. Ok, so maybe that’s just the intention to buy, but I did also buy his book “500 ways to be a better writer” in order to capitalise on his offer of a free copy of “”250 things you should know about writing.” Wendig now has a healthy chunk of my Kindle real estate.

Two successes, one failure. The last free ebook deal I went for was another disappointment. I didn’t read up about it, just clicked the link and knew within two pages that this was not a novel for me. It might have been well-written and excellently plotted, but…Well, imagine you think rabbits are stupid and pointless (ie, you have a good grasp on reality. Rabbits are a waste of grass….). Now someone hands you “Watership Down” and says “Hey, here’s a book about rabbits…” Are you going to be interested? Not very likely. So it was with this book. Not about rabbits, true, but not interesting to me.

I’m going to be more cautious about free downloads from here on. What matters is the book, not the price, and building a link with the author helps me know in advance how likely it is their book will be a good fit. I’ll be downloading “Redshirts” from Mr Scalzi, as well as the next adventure of Atlanta Burns from Mr Wendig. What are YOU e-reading?

*My policy here is to praise and name the e-books that have impressed me, but not to name specifically the authors or books that were a disappointment. Sometimes these things are so subjective, it’s not fair to damn someone on one opinion.

7 responses to “What’s on your e-reader?

  1. I love my kindle too, though it’s 14 months old and B&W, so I’m seriously behind the curve. My rule of thumb is that ebooks are just right for everything except (1) reference books I’m going to refer to often, and (2) fiction I’m going to reread or like so much I want to hold it in my hands.

    I’m going to have to order a hardcopy of “Save the Cat,” since I want to dog-ear pages, underline things in yellow marker, etc.

    “Hunger Games” is just fine as an ebook. It’s a very good, very original book – it truly deserves the title of “breakout novel” in it’s genre, but I was annoyed with ending, and now I find all the hype for the movie a turnoff. Come on, a Superbowl add? I find excessive marketing has a contrary effect on me.

    The first few days I had the kindle, I downloaded all sorts of freebees – and ditched most of them after the first few pages. Nowadays I like to read a few pages before pressing the button. Most of the books on Smashwords have generous sections you can sample, even up to half the book. Let’s face it, if I like something enough to read half of it on my laptop, I’m certainly going to pay $0.99 to see how it ends!

    • I toyed with buying the original kindle for ages, and even got one for my Mum, but then the Fire came out and I had to have it. The multi-functionality really sold it. It seems an extravagance from the reading point of view – the virtual bookshelf looks really pretty with all the covers lined up, but the main thing is the reading experience is still good, and we can use it for other stuff too. The weasels play Angry Birds on it, Mrs Dim checks Facebook from the comfort of her sofa, and i can check emails, Facebook and WordPress stats over breakfast…and then carry on reading!

  2. Oh, hey. I got a Kindle Keyboard for Christmas and I’m quite pleased with it. I have over a hundred downloads now.

    I’m wary of really cheap or free stuff unless I’m familiar with the author. A lot of the romance, paranormal authors are putting up their backlogs cheaply or even for free. Since I’m familiar with them I don’t have a qualm buying and downloading them.

    The occasional fantasy/sci-fi authors put up something like Chuck Wendig did with Shotgun Gravy which I got for free too, btw. I can’t see me buying sci-fi/fantasy ebooks too much unless it’s an author I’m not familiar with. I do have some of Bob Mayer and Tony Ruggiero’s stuff downloaded but otherwise I’ll stick mostly with print.

    If I’m not familiar with the author I try to get a sample. One author had great reviews and I tried the sample. She must’ve paid for those reviews is all I got to say.

    Then there’s the classics that are free. I’m loving those. Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Grimm Brothers, Thomas Malory, etc…fun, fun, fun.

    • That’s the advantage I’m finding with G+ – you can interact with these authors a little before going to try their fiction. I wish I’d done a bit more research before jumping on the free offers earlier, but I’m fairly sure today’s choice is going to be a hit. To sell my experiment Kindle story (experimental in that I’m experimenting with having a story for sale in the Kindle Store…) I’m trying the honest approach. I’m telling people it isn’t any good, they’ll be wasting their money, and that I’m not going to offer it free. So far my sales have hit the low single figures….Who’d a thought it?

  3. You have a story on Amazon?Thanks for the heads up and the warning. I checked it out and it’s free with Amazon Prime. I’m thinking of joining AP and just might get it free. :-)

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