I’m getting pretty close to uploading CRIME ALWAYS PAYS to Kindle (mock-up cover, right, by my own fair hand), courtesy of others more technologically advanced than I, but I have to say that there isn’t the same excitement involved as when I have had a conventional book published. Maybe that’ll change as we get closer to the date, but I don’t know. I think it’s partly to do with the electronic format – I don’t own an e-reader myself, so there’ll be nothing tangible for me to hold in my hands and say, ‘That’s mine, I did that’. There’ll be nothing to go on the shelf, nothing to show the grandchildren … boo-hoo, etc.
Still and all, publishing is publishing, and I’d far rather the story was out there being read, even by very few people, than gathering dust in my bottom drawer. I mean, I love books like the next guy or gal, but I love them for their stories, not for their design or what they represent, or for any other reason. Apologies to ye olde bibliophiles out there, but the story is first, last and always with me. And I honestly believe, despite being agnostic about the e-readers, that the new technologies will be good for the story, much in the way the novel was good for the story when it came along.
For what it’s worth, I think the e-readers are doomed if they persist in offering only one option – i.e., written text. Until they start offering the options of music, movies and possibly gaming, they’re not going to cross over into the mainstream, like iPods. I know quite a few people who consider themselves readers who read about 10-15 books per year, and I know some people who consider themselves readers on the basis of reading 4-5 books per year. Those people – the vast majority of readers, I’d argue, being the book club readers, and the holiday readers – aren’t going to invest in an e-reader, because it doesn’t make any financial sense.
Still, while most of the emphasis on the recent technological developments in the world of publishing seems to be focusing on marketing, sales and profits, an understandable if short-term fixation, especially given the current economic climate, I haven’t come across many people talking about the story-telling possibilities.
I remember there was a craze many years ago for books in which the reader decided how the story ran, by choosing at the end of a chapter whether to jump to page 93 or page 147, and so on. A stupid bloody idea, but there you go. Anyway, last year I uploaded a novel to the web, and was very tempted to provide links in the text – for example, when I mentioned the Spartans, I’d provide a link to take you through to a history of the Spartans, or a particularly interesting story about them. Along with the links, I wanted to embed video in the text, and incorporate mood music … In essence, I suppose, the idea was to position the blog roughly halfway between that of a novel and a movie. I didn’t have the time or tech skills, but I’m thinking the Kindle / Sony Reader might be the perfect platform for this kind of thing.
There are potential downsides, the main one being that a reader might well jump out of your novel into an account of the Spartans, and from there to the Peloponnesian wars, and from there onwards into the online universe, never to return to your novel again. I’d argue that it’s your job as a writer is to make your story interesting enough to bring them back to the source over and over again.
How anyone would make any money out of a project like that I have no idea, and care less. I’d say it’d be fun, though. Especially if you started interacting with other writers and their stories ...
Meanwhile, I’m curious – how many of you actually own an e-reader, or are contemplating buying one? And how many of you would rather take a fork in both eyes than read a novel on an e-reader?
Praise for Declan Burke: “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – The Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “A hardboiled delight.” – The Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review). “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre, was ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL.” – Sunday Times. “The writing is a joy.” – Ken Bruen. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.