An Industry Insider Becomes an Ebook Convert

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.

Home Children's Library

And that’s only 3 of them!

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?


22 Responses to An Industry Insider Becomes an Ebook Convert

  1. Kim Mar 18 2013 at 2:55 am #

    In college, I never felt like I had a lot of time to read — and no money to buy books — until my mom gave me a Nook one year for christmas. Somehow, the connivence of it and the generally lower prices of the books just brought me back to a regular reading habit. It was so easy to use it in-between classes and I didn’t have to worry about lugging extra books around with me. The only downside was the battery life on that Nook was pretty bad.

    Once I graduated, I went back to physical books. I love hardcovers and adding them to my bookshelves. Plus, new books smell nice (is that weird?). Then I got the old model of Kindle (for the month long battery life and easy readability) and I’m back to buying probably as many, if not more, ebooks as I am real books. If it’s an author I’m not sure about, I’ll be the ebook for sure. If it’s an author I love, I’ll go out and get the hardcopy (if available).

    I love this post. It makes such a good point about ebooks: more people are buying books.

    • JoSVolpe Mar 19 2013 at 2:34 pm #

      I know! I totally agree. And this is extremely heartening to see that ebooks brought you back into the habit of reading. I love that.

  2. Rae Mar 18 2013 at 5:01 am #

    iBooks is fantastic! I remember whinging about how the Kindle app wasn’t as pretty to my sister when she bought me Throne of Glass on it, haha!

    • JoSVolpe Mar 19 2013 at 2:34 pm #

      Ha! I happen to think iBooks is really nice-looking, too! 🙂

  3. Diana Mar 18 2013 at 6:23 am #

    I’ve been an e-book convert for…3 1/2 years now? I got my beloved Kindle for Christmas three years ago–the ‘old-fashioned’ keyboard kind–and I’ve loved it ever since. I still relish trips to the bookstore and library, but my Kindle makes things SO easy, especially on release days. No waiting for shipping or combing through bookstores, I just…click and read. It’s little impatient ten-year-old-me’s DREAM.

    And one of the main complaints I’ve heard about e-books is that you can’t easily tell how far along in the book you are. My Kindle is great (I don’t know how many e-books do this) because it has a bar at the bottom. This lovely little bar shows me how far along I am in the book! It’s funny, I think it’s actually tailored the way I analyze books. “Yeah, sure,” I tell myself, “X, Y, and Z will happen by 80%.” It would be really easy for this to harm my reading experience, but it actually enhances it.

    Then again, for various personal/private/life reasons, I’ve been buying and reading almost exclusively Kindle books for a couple of months, and I find I very much miss the feel of a physical book in my hands. I still have my bookshelves, I just haven’t used them, and that bugs me. As much as I LOVE my Kindle, nothing at all compares to the feel of a book in my hand.

    • JoSVolpe Mar 19 2013 at 2:36 pm #

      I’ve heard that same complaint (about being able to tell how far along in the book you are), and I never really thought that was a big deal personally. But enough people have said it to me, that it’s obviously something!

  4. Natalie Aguirre Mar 18 2013 at 6:24 am #

    I still love print books. But my aunt gave me her old Nook and I do enjoy reading books on it. It was very convenient when I took my daughter on a heritage trip to China over the Christmas holidays not to have to long 5-6 books around.

    I’m also starting to offer them for my book giveaways on my blog when I don’t get ARCs. They’re cheaper than print books which are getting expensive due to higher postage costs and it keeps my giveaways international. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • JoSVolpe Mar 19 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      So true! I didn’t realize it, but it does keep giveaways international. Out of curiosity, does DRM affect these giveaways internationally?

  5. jeffo Mar 18 2013 at 7:56 am #

    I read one book on my wife’s phone. The experience was okay, not great, not horrible. Not enough to make me rush out and buy a pad/nook/kindle/etc., but also not something to make me throw the device into the river and swear off e-books, either (yeah, good luck with that, right?).

    As for people asking you if you’re worried about the future of your job, I think they’re just assuming e-books = self-published = no need for an agent. I’ve seen plenty of writers make this mistake, too.

    • JoSVolpe Mar 19 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      You should try the experience on something bigger than a phone and see what you think then!

      And you make a good point that people probably equate ebooks with self-publishing, even self-publishing doesn’t necessarily erase the need for an agent. We have a few clients who self publish and we play very active roles for them as well. But good point!

  6. Alexa Y. Mar 18 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Honestly, it took me a year or two before I decided to purchase a Kindle. Like you, I love, love, LOVE physical books. I adore the smell of the pages, and having that weighty feeling in my hands. That said, in 2010, I was missing all the books I’d left at home in the Philippines and I didn’t want to buy another physical copy to eventually send back. So I turned to the Kindle – and since then I haven’t looked back, only converting to the iPad after another year. Though I still prefer real, physical books, I do have a soft spot for e-books now. I think it’s a great new platform for authors, and it’s made reading so much more accessible for people!

  7. Anna J. Boll Mar 18 2013 at 10:14 am #

    Thanks for this Joanna. Two things have frustrated me about my NOOK. One is the whole power thing. A book whose battery runs out!?! *annoyed* The other is more important and curious– the design of the book itself. Many times I’ll come across wonky pages, words spread out from margin to margin, no embellishments, standard type, etc. I had assumed that an ebook was basically a PDF of the original but this doesn’t seem to be so. Thoughts or insights?

    • Diana Mar 18 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      I use a Kindle, not a Nook, but I’m pretty sure that’s just individual publishers/authors/formatters. Some books are perfectly formatted, others have weird capitalization errors. I once read a book where there was a one-inch margin on the left side! Fiddle with font size/type; I’ve found sometimes that helps.

    • JoSVolpe Mar 19 2013 at 2:43 pm #

      It’s true, ebooks are not PDF’s of the original. They need to be formatted differently. But so far I haven’t seen any wonky pages or text on my iPad…I wonder if that is just a nook thing? (Totally NOT sure about that and not claiming that it is!). Interesting.

  8. Annie Mar 18 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    I really like e-books for novellas and rereads. But I find that I engage with a story better if I read it for the first time as a physical book. Then the convenience of my kindle for traveling and highlighting books and accessing my kindle on my phone are all awesome.

  9. Meredith Anderson Mar 18 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    I’m in the same boat as you! I didn’t have anything against e-readers, but they weren’t for me. I wanted to turn the pages, smell the book, carry it with me and admire the cover every time I went to open it. But my husband got me a nook this Christmas after I bought several e-novellas that I read on my iphone. It took me a while to read a book on the nook (about two months, actually). It wasn’t the same, but it wasn’t bad! I’ve downloaded a few more books and I plan to keep reading with the nook, but I still prefer my hard copies. But with all the e-novellas coming out between series, I feel like I’m going to be using it a lot more.

    Thanks for such a great post! I love your bookshelves!


    • JoSVolpe Mar 19 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      Thanks! I love my bookshelves, too. 🙂
      But yes, it’s all of that great e-only content. How can we miss it??

  10. Michael Kline Mar 18 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    I totally agree Joanna. Nothing is wrong with the content. Publishers are just a bit unsure as to which “bus” to put it on, and readers have a lot of buses to choose from (and a lost of bus stops). 🙂

    • JoSVolpe Mar 19 2013 at 2:45 pm #

      I like this analogy, Micheal. That’s exactly it!

  11. Kisa Whipkey Mar 19 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    My ebook experience is actually identical to yours! I wasn’t necessarily ever against them, but I wasn’t a fan either. I had a Sony eReader too, and it lasted about two books before I threw it in a drawer and never looked back. It just couldn’t compare to actually holding, smelling and loving a physical book.

    Then along came Apple and the iPad and bam! I was converted. I think a lot of it has to do with finding the right platform as a reader. Much like purchasing a computer, you have to find your fit with the digital readers. Not every person is going to love every layout, app, etc. So it takes some research to find the right one.

    I’m like you, an Apple girl. I actually haven’t read a physical book in about a year, bouncing between my iPhone and iPad instead. The ease of reading on the go like that is just too convenient to pass up. So while I still love physical books, I can’t contest that ebooks have made it far easier for me to consume my favorite medium of entertainment. 🙂

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