I don’t have anything against ebooks. I never have actually.
When I meet new people (outside of publishing) and they ask what I do for a living, and I explain that I’m a literary agent–one of the most common responses I get these days is “Oh, geez. Must be tough, right? With ebooks taking over, are you worried about your job?” And my response is a mixture of confusion-surprise-annoyance-amusement. Why would ebooks change my job? It’s just another medium in which stories can be enjoyed. Whether its on a tablet or on paper or coming through someone’s earbuds, my job doesn’t change too much at all.
The fact is that ebooks and all of the subrights/enhancments/platforms/etc that come along with ebooks are changing the industry in big ways. For one thing, MORE PEOPLE ARE BUYING BOOKS. And for some of my authors, they make more money on ebook royalties than their physical books. (I’m looking at you, mass markets!)
But I’m not here to rehash what’s already been discussed to death. I’m here to share my recent experience with you.
Despite the fact that I’ve been gung-ho for ebooks as an industry person, as a reader…I didn’t really like them. Don’t get me wrong, I got a Sony e-reader in 2008 and loved it…for work. I got a Nook in 2011 and thought it was cool for about 5 minutes, then quickly tired of it. I just really didn’t like the experience at all. I preferred the smell of the pages, the feel of a sturdy binding in my hands. I wanted my books lined neatly on my shelf according to genre. I mean, I have 9.5 bookshelves in my apartment alone!
This past September, I finally bought an iPad. I was going to be in the UK for work for 10 days, and I needed an easy way to show off our fancy New Leaf Literary catalog to UK editors. But despite having the iPad for 6 months, I didn’t actually buy any ebooks until February of this year.
We’re at a point where some of our clients are publishing e-only work. Whether it be serialized, self-published, or is just extra content for a larger series, there was client work out there that (of course) I wanted to own, too! So I sat down and opened my iBooks app. And isn’t that fancy, it’s got a little bookshelf for me to put my books on. Oh! And I can break them into categories and have different bookshelves!
Neat trick, Apple.
The first book I bought was Anew by Chelsea Fine. Then Valkyrie Symptoms by Ingrid Paulsen (a e-novella prequel to Valkyrie Rising). The The Witch of Duva by Leigh Bardugo (a Ravkan tale, for you Grisha fans). Free Four by Veronica Roth. Then I pre-ordered The Witch Collector by Loretta Nyhan, A Dawn Most Wicked by Susan Dennard (another awesome e-novella pre-quel), and I kept going. Turns out, a lot of our clients are doing some really cool things with ebooks these days! And when I saw all of those pretty covers lined up on my virtual shelf, something inside me shifted, just a little.
But it wasn’t until I cracked open one of my purchases and started reading that I realized that this experience was actually FUN. When I turn my iPad sideways, I even get a crease down the middle of the pages like a book! And now that I knew how easy it was to buy these things, I decided to go on a shopping spree.
Well…34 purchases later (in my defense, a handful of them were free), I was hooked. What I love most of all is that I can upload them to my iPhone, too, to finish reading on the subway or when I can’t have my iPad on me. And when I finish a book by an author I enjoyed, on the very last page iBooks suggests all of the other books by that author. And it’s as easy as hitting Download.
When I think about all of the possibilities this opens up for me as a reader, I get positively giddy. I don’t know why I was such a late-comer on this, but damn am I glad I am here. I’m reading more than ever and loving it. In fact, I’m loving it in a way that I haven’t in a really long time. And I’m still buying my physical books, too. But what it really comes down to is this: I would never have given so many books a chance in the past if it wasn’t so convenient. And affordable. I am a bookbuyer and always have been, and now I am buying more.
The statistics are true!
Sidenote: This isn’t some kind of ad for Apple, btw. If you like your Kindle or your Nook, then that’s equally as awesome. For some reason it took my iPad to make it work for me. To each her own, right?
So take it from me, a late e-book bloomer. These things are changing the industry, and they are changing readers, too. In a good way, I think.
Are you hooked on ebooks yet? What are your experiences with ebooks?
Joanna Volpe is a literary agent with New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. She represents all brands of fiction, from picture books to adult.
She has an affinity for stories that have a darker, grittier element to them, whether they be horror, drama or comedy.