The eBook Effect: Buying and Reading More

I have been reading ebooks for only a few years, yet there has been a steady shift in both how I read books (a shift away from pbooks toward ebooks) and the number of books I buy and read (I buy and read more books than when I was buying just pbooks) since I entered the world of ebooks.

Recently, I started a trilogy by indie author Joseph Lallo, The Book of Deacon. As was true for many of the ebooks I have bought and read, the first book in the trilogy, also called The Book of Deacon, was free. And like other books that I have enjoyed, I have purchased the subsequent books in the series, The Great Convergence and The Battle of Verril. I do not intend to review the books in this article, other than to say that this is a 4-star epic fantasy series, well worth trying.

I mention the trilogy, because it got me thinking about my reading habits and about numbers. The first book in the trilogy, I “bought” at Smashwords. I read it on my Nook Tablet, and when I came to the last page, immediately went online via the Tablet to the B&N ebookstore and purchased book 2. Book 3 was purchased the same way. What surprised me was that my Nook library, after purchasing The Battle of Verril, had 186 ebooks in it — and I have had my Nook Tablet only for two months! I wondered, how many ebooks have I purchased over the years?

From just three ebookstores – Smashwords, B&N, and Sony — I have purchased 722 ebooks (again, “purchase” includes ebooks gotten for free and ebooks that I have paid for). Add in the ebooks I purchased at Kobo, Baen, and several other ebookstores, the quantity rises above 900; add in ebooks obtained from places like Feedbooks and MobileRead, and the number climbs above 1,100.

I haven’t yet read all of the ebooks I purchased, but I am working away at the backlog, even as I increase the backlog by buying more ebooks. Since receiving my first Sony Reader as a holiday gift in December 2007 (the Sony 505), both my buying and reading habits have gradually, but dramatically, changed.

Before ebooks, I rarely bought indie-authored books. I also rarely bought novels. Nearly all my book purchases (at least 90%) were nonfiction, mainly biography, history, critical thinking, language, ethics, philosophy, and religion. I never cared much for the self-help books; I always felt that the only real self-help going on was the author helping him-/herself to my money. Books that I did buy either caught my eye on the bookshelf at a local bookstore, were reviewed in the New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, Smithsonian, The Economist, American Heritage, or other magazine to which I subscribed, or advertised in one of the magazines to which I subscribed. But the two primary sources finding pbooks to buy were browsing the local bookstore and the New York Review of Books, including ads in the Review.

I didn’t buy indie-authored books because the authors were unknown and the books were expensive, especially as I only bought hardcover pbooks. Yet I did buy a lot of pbooks, rarely fewer than 125 pbooks a year (not including the pbooks my wife bought).

The advent of ebooks caused my reading and buying habits to shift. In the beginning of my personal ebook era, I continued to buy a large number of hardcover pbooks supplemented with a few ebooks. In the beginning, I was neither ready nor willing to simply move completely away from pbooks (which is still true). Nor was I ready nor willing to shift my focus from known authors and nonfiction to indie authors and fiction (which is no longer true). But as each month passed and I became more enamored with reading on my Sony Reader, I began to explore ebooks and with that exploration, came indie-authored fiction ebooks.

I am still unwilling to buy indie-authored nonfiction ebooks. I look at nonfiction books as both entertainment and sources of knowledge. Consequently, an author’s reputation and background remain important, and I still look to my magazines for guidance. However, where previously I rarely bought fiction and what fiction I did buy was not indie-authored, today I buy hundreds of indie-authored fiction ebooks. With the exception of perhaps a dozen nonfiction ebooks that I have purchased over the years (I bought the pbook first then decided to also buy the ebook version) and a handful of well-known fiction authors’ novels, every one of the more than 1,100 ebooks I have purchased are indie-authored fiction.

eBooks have had another impact on my reading in addition to the number and type of ebook purchases I make: I am reading more books than ever. Prior to ebooks, I would read 1 to 1.5 hardcover nonfiction pbooks each week (on average) over the course of a year. (I find that it takes me longer to read a nonfiction book than to read a fiction book; I tend to linger over facts and try to absorb them, whereas I consider fiction books to be generally a read-once-then-giveaway books.) Over my 4.5-year history with ebooks, the number of nonfiction pbooks that I purchase each year has steadily declined and it is taking me longer to read a nonfiction pbook, whereas the number of fiction ebooks I purchase has steadily increased and I read them faster than ever; I now read an average of two to three fiction ebooks a week — again, nearly all indie authored — in addition to my nonfiction reading.

Alas, not all is rosy in indie-authored ebookland. Sometimes I have to discard (delete) a goodly number of indie-authored ebooks before I find one that I think is worth reading from “cover-to-cover.” It is this experience that causes me to be unwilling to pay for the first ebook I read by an indie author. As those of you who are regular readers of An American Editor know, once I find an indie author who I think writes well, I am willing to pay for all of their ebooks that interest me. Indie authors that I have discovered and whose books I think are worth reading and buying include Rebecca Forster, Shayne Parkinson, Vicki Tyley, Michael Hicks, and L.J. Sellers. But finding these worthwhile authors is the difficult part, and ebooks have made the finding more difficult than ever.

The problem of ebooks, as the number of ebooks I have purchased attests, is that there are so many of them, which makes it hard to weed among them. I’ve lamented before that there is no gatekeeper for fiction ebooks. As poor as the gatekeeper system might be, it at least has the virtue of doing some preliminary weeding. True, sometimes gatekeepers do not distinguish between the wheat and the chaff, but at least with gatekeeping there would be some reduction in the number of ebooks that a reader would have to wade through to find the worthwhile indie-authored would have been done. Under the current system, readers need to apply their own filters and hope for the best.

The ebook effect has altered the reading world by making more indie-authored books available to consumers, making gatekeeping a relic of the past, and making price a more important part of the reading-purchasing equation. eBooks change how readers relate to books. Whether ultimately this is for the better or not, remains to be seen.

image by brewbooks

6 thoughts on “The eBook Effect: Buying and Reading More

  1. To be honest, I’ve no idea what indie authers I have. Nor do I really care about that. If I like the description of a book, I’ll probably read it, no matter who wrote it.

    And I’ve not starting to read “more” since reading electronically, but rather more often. I always had at least a pocket with me, wherever I went, but it’s still more difficult to read from a pocket than a device when you’re on the go.

  2. I’ve had several ebook readers since 2003, though to be honest, I rarely bought commercial titles until I purchased the ipad 1. But now though, if I read a few blogposts of a blogger and he or she has an ebook for sale which is less than $3, I will probably buy it.

    The difference between indie books and mainstream work has disappeared, mainly because established midlist writers have abandoned publishers (or been abandoned by them). So they have published their latest ebooks on their own or republished their out-of-print works themselves. I recently reviewed a book by one of Texas’ best writers (Robert Flynn); that book has been 99 cents for over a year! That only makes sense because generally they already have a following. With nonfiction, it’s a little different; the writers are less entrepreneurial, depend more on advances and tend to be journalists; also it is easier to sell books to mainstream publishers if you’re a nonfiction writer. They are relatively “safe” bets.

  3. It’s so heartening to hear someone say that the accessibility of ebooks has prompted him to buy more print books. Traditional publishing houses plead for mercy with the argument that ebooks will lead people to buy fewer print books, and oh what a travesty it will be when print books no longer are available. I agree that a world without print books would be a sad one, but I don’t believe that it would ever be caused by making stories more accessible in whatever form. The more you read, the more you want to read — it’s been proven for hundreds of years, and it’s why we try to get kids involved in reading at a young age.

    Thanks for sharing. I encourage you to keep trying out indie authors. When you find the gems, you have found a treasure that remains hidden from too many other readers.

    P.S. Check out Booktango’s online ebookstore; through July 4, its authors are getting 100% royalties. Quite the deal!

  4. Once upon a time some goodhearted bibliophiles went to work in book publishing. They published many great novelists like Proust and Salinger not sure if they would make money but passionate about the promise of the works. Then these people were purchased by giant corporations and asked to babysit celebrities and cable news bloviators and pols within their media groups who would write cookbooks and memoirs with the aid of ghostwriters. The editors became disgruntled babysitters so many left to become literary agents. But they could no longer sell new novels into the celebrity culture focused on making money and not teaching via good taste. All seemed lost. But then a whole new group of people with taste emerged from the other side of the once-great nation, in a place called Silicon Valley, and they provided a new way for the individual human artistic expression to find release. The ebook revolution is saving human expression. Mid-list and new novelists now have renewed hope when all seemed so broken. Praise human ingenuity among the ruins. Thanks for your great post. Best, Caleb from Publerati,, a new literary fiction ebook publisher. Typed on iPad apologize for any typos.

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