Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 and how I discovered e-Books.

Every time I reach the last day of the year I chastise myself yet again for not having finished writing a novel.

It's been happening for nearly a decade now. Well! The year isn't over yet so maybe I will manage yet. You will know tomorrow if I succeed, I am sure.

As for the year that is past, what can I say? It's been a somewhat challenging year for me but there were lots of good mixed in with the bad. But in general I would call it the year Ted discovered the eReader.

I've been somewhat vocal on my dislike of ebooks, if not on this blog, then in conversation with fellow readers and friends. My dislike for them was borne out of a time when Amazon had not yet launched its Kindle, and the only eReaders available on the market were expensive, bulky and most terribly, impractical to buy books for.

This was also a time when people still thought that eBooks were a thing you read on your computer screen. I thought this a terrible thing, and still do. Reading a 150,000 word novel at my computer desk is not a comfortable thing to do.

Everything I knew about eBooks seemed to be wrong. It just didn't fit for novel reading. Computer screens strained your eyes. The sitting position was painful over long periods. Reading software were buggy, slow and inconducive.

But that was five years ago. I heard about how eReaders with e-Ink had advanced so far that they were now able to replicate perfectly the appearance of ink on real paper but those eReaders remained elusive and I had no friends to demonstrate me its wonders. Until a colleague at work decided to get a Kindle that is.

At first I mocked him for getting one. I asked him why he would want to get an eReader when he could just go out and buy the book he wanted to read at the bookstore. In Malaysia, getting a Kindle is a bit of a hassle, legally getting books on to them is a bigger hassle. I really didn't see his need for getting a Kindle especially when our office is located next to a shopping mall which hosts two of the nation's major bookstores.

And then he brought it to work and showed it to me. It was a Kindle Keyboard. It was light. The screen was perfect for reading text. It could hold a gajillion books. It's only flaw was it didn't have a backlight, which wasn't a big deal, since normal paper books don't have backlights either.

I understood. I got it. I saw how this thing was the future. No, not the future. This was the present. Normal books are obsolete. Yes, they smell nice but that's it. I saw the Kindle and I knew, I wanted one as well.

This was around the same time Amanda Hocking was making the headlines for becoming successful as a self-published author on Amazon's Kindle Digital Publishing programme. I was aware of her successes and envied her but I wasn't paying attention just yet.

Not until my friend John Ling announced that he was starting a small press that would publish e-books and asked if I was interested in submitting that I felt I needed to pay more attention to digital publishing.

So I started researching. I rediscovered several writer friends who had found success with digital self-publishing. I discovered new authors and new books that I loved.

But most importantly, I learned how to publish an e-book. I published two short stories as an experiment and as a learning project for myself. They didn't sell well (I didn't expect them to) but I learned a lot putting them out for the world to download and read.

Now, on this last day of 2011, I've rediscovered a new vigour for not just reading but writing as well. I've been buying and downloading a lot of new books for the Kindle app on iPad (something I'll have to make do with until I get a real e-Ink reader) and reading much more than I used to. I'm also writing more than usual because I feel I can get my stories out faster to an audience rather than waiting several miserable months from a magazine only to get a rejection.

All's good, I say. Now... if only I could finish that elusive novel...


5 comments:

  1. I share your sentiments, Ted. I used to be a sceptic as well -- that is, until I got my first Kindle two years ago.

    Before then, I used to think, 'Anyone who publishes digitally can't be a real author.' These days, though, I don't think it can be disputed that authors who publish digitally are at the forefront of the cutting edge. They deserve not scorn, but respect for paving the way.

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  2. Yeah, about writing that elusive novel, remember that one time that I joined you in Nanowrimo? Since I don't have any console with me at all right now, I've been rereading that thing and my hands started to itch to start writing again. All this started after seeing the success of your short story. - Non-e

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  3. John: Yeah, 2-3 years I scoffed at the idea of digital publishing, thinking that e-readers would never catch on. How wrong I was!

    I guess we have Amazon to thank for the proliferation of ereaders as well as a successful easy-to-publish model for authors.

    I'm still a little wary of Amazon though as I know it won't be long before they use their monopoly powers for something that wouldn't be to the benefit of authors...

    Non-e: Did I inspire you? :D Better get writing if you think you have the time... I think once you have the missus or the PS3 around, I doubt you'd be able find the time to write. Go for it!

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  4. Hello Ted,
    This is Elizabeth Tai here - I'm a journalist for The Star. I was reading John Ling's website when I stumbled upon your comment and realised that you've published an eBook! I'm currently writing an article about Malaysians going down the eBook publishing route so am wondering if I can talk to you about your experience? We can either meet up or have an e-mail interview. Up to you! Please visit me at my website at http://elizabethtai.com and contact me via the contact form. (Apologies, I don't want to leave the spambots cookies).

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  5. Hi Elizabeth! I dropped you a message via Facebook instead ;)

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