E-books and e-readers – are we expecting too much?
This is the second article in a series on books for the teen/tween market, to mark the launch of The Cloud Pearl (Book One: Legends of Liria).
I’m in the classic demographic to possess an e-reader. Female, mother, and of a certain age. I woke up to the revolution two years, submitted several manuscripts and I have now have six books deals. They are all initially e-books.
I assumed everyone was familiar with e-readers, even if they didn’t own one. Well, I think I’m horribly wrong.
I was at the hairdresser’s, a classic place to catch up on my reading. I left my e-reader on the table and a crowd formed. Not one of the women there had ever seen one before – and it was a wide age range, from late teens to post-retirement. When I showed them the cover of one of my books on the screen, there was a general ooh and aah. Far from being flattered, I was horrified.
For the past year, I’ve been busy writing and trying market e-books for adults and children. I’m now unsure about the adult market – and what’s more, I have concerns about the complex issue of e-books for younger readers.
From personal experience, I can vouch for the fact that so many more teen/tween and YA titles are now available electronically. For instance, the early Septimus Heap books I got out of the library. Now they’re all electronic as well. It’s quite an explosion. I felt encouraged that writing for a younger market would be successful.
But I’m an adult. I have a Paypal account, an assortment of credit and debit cards, my own laptop and a personal e-reader. I can click on any book I like.
But let’s assume I’m 12, how do I get started? Hope the school will give me a tablet? Yes, some schools have piloted projects, offering tablets pre-loaded with juicy stuff, but it’s an expensive business.
I know. I’ll plague Mum and Dad into buying me one. But e-readers are still costly, the high-end tablet readers especially so. What if my folks simply can’t afford one this Christmas? I’ll try Granny. ‘Oh, I don’t know what to buy, dear. Why don’t you go and read a proper book?’ Unfortunately the queen herself is of this opinion, according to the press.
And even if I do wangle an e-reader, how do I get hold of the books I want? The local library, perhaps? But how many libraries have a decent e-book section yet?
Perhaps I could go back to the school? Some schools have e-libraries, but it’s still a relatively new phenomenon. And it’s a big ask, especially for the smaller school, for example, even if they wanted to. I’ve read of pilot projects here and there, but not as many as I’d expected.
So, it’s back to asking Mum and Dad to buy the book for me. This is so uncool it’s untrue.
When I think back, I was in control of my own reading from age seven or so. Our junior school library was reasonably well-stocked library, and as I moved into my early teens, I kept going. By mid-teens, I started on the books at home. It was a natural progression to buying my own when I was an undergraduate and had the cash.
As an author, I now have a dilemma. To whom do I direct my PR campaign? International e-libraries, literary mums, indulgent dads, enlightened schools, forward-thinking (and affluent) education authorities, teens and tweens themselves ...? Well, I’m stumped.
In the meantime, I’m trusting that my e-publishers continue to seek out e-library prospects. Such complex marketing strategies are way beyond the remit of a lowly author.
However, I have come up with one ploy. I’ve been invited to participate in a literacy workshop at a local junior. Although the literacy co-ordinator admits to preferring real books and there is no e-library to speak of, I’m going to push for some on-screen e-book activities. I need to read up on using digital text books in a classroom setting. Even it’s tricky, I believe literacy teaching should use every weapon, including the most up-to-date technology, to promote a love of reading, and the ability to do this electronically, for that is where the future of learning lies. Although it’s tempting, I’m certainly not going to print out chapter one for discussion. This would defeat the object.
But most importantly, I’m going to suggest the children complete an online questionnaire to find out for myself what they think.
If you have any questions you’d like me to ask, do please let me know.
By Pamela Kelt