My beef with ebooks

Discussion in 'iPad' started by jellybean, Oct 3, 2011.

  1. jellybean macrumors regular

    Jun 27, 2006
    I use my iPad primarily as an e-reader, and I love being able to store hundreds of books in such a thin and compact device. I'll never go back to the old way of reading books. (Paper? ew!) BUT I've begun to notice a worrying trend in both Apple's iBookstore and Amazon: There are an increasing number of books which have been self published by the authors, often not professional authors but hobbyists and amateurs, and many of them have clearly not been proof read or edited. I've been caught out a couple of times by downloading samples of books only to realise just a few pages in that the book has been self published and reads like a schoolboy's rejected creative writing assignment.

    Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that aspiring authors with a genuine talent can finally get their work out there without being rejected or shoved around by ruthless publishing companies, but I worry that these ebook stores are in danger of being flooded by poorly written books by people who could benefit from brushing up on their writing skills or seeking the services of a professional editor? Perhaps there's still a place for publishers and editors in this new era of digital books after all?

    Has anyone else encountered this kind of thing in the iBookstore or Amazon's store? Or perhaps any authors would care to chime in?
  2. poloponies Suspended

    May 3, 2010
    Perhaps? Of course there's a place for editors (and it's not just self-published authors, Stephen King would benefit from some good editing). Just like with self-promoting musicians on the Internet, you're going to end up with a lot of mediocre product because of the ease of putting stuff out there. It's good overall.
  3. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    ^^ There's a place for editors, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there's a place for the traditional "industry" -- I mean, Radiohead can make an album and distribute it without a record label on the internet, but that doesn't mean that they did all the sound and studio work themselves (I don't think?) and it doesn't mean that, just because they can, I can. :D

    If you look at Amazon's sales lists, there are lots of bargain priced, self-published books. Some of them are apparently quite good, and more than a few have led the authors to publishing deals. But, they do a nice job of helping you find books by premiere authors. On the other hand, I don't really browse their (or anyone else's) eBooks. I usually go in on a targeted search. And it doesn't seem like the assistant tools, like the "customers who looked at this bought..." really drive you towards vanity press books.

    Hopefully it will evolve like the App Store -- the app store is full of junk, but it's still not that hard to find premium titles, and I don't find myself accidentally downloading jiggly breasts or fart apps when I wanted a navigation tool or the RedBox app....
  4. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    I have found the independent works to be a wasteland of utter rubbish, and even scams. I am well-aware that there are exceptions, but they prove the rule. For me, this is a huge problem with the new market. It is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. It was difficult enough before, but at least you could expect editing, proofreading, and someone other than mom to have vetted it. I don't buy them anymore unless I see multiple rave reviews from people I trust. Obviously, this means I spend a lot less, good authors don't get my money, and I don't get to enjoy their work.

    I have had some bad luck with apps in the app store. They are buggy and I request a refund, but I never get it and I am screwed. *sigh* It's a real shame. I don't mind spending money for good stuff, but I've been burned so much that I pretty much don't buy apps anymore unless I have seen overwhelmingly positive reviews on iTunes, here, and other sites. Even then, they disappoint me. This is a bad situation for app developers and for me, and until Apple changes its refund policy, I don't see it improving (at least, in my case).

    Welcome to the world of crowd-sourcing crap. I could rant about the "news," "political leaders," or any number of other situations in which so-called "authorities" have been rejected in favor of the average Joe's voice. Yippee...

    There is definitely room for publishers and editors, especially if they innovate and change their business model to meet the needs of the new ebook market.
  5. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    As you said yourself, the "preview" can show whether it's worth buying.

    There are plenty of publications that review apps. Number and quality of iTunes reviews are also pretty good indication of whether it's good or not.

    If you think all apps are bad, then you are missing out big time.

    You also contradict yourself by saying that you'll read reviews for books (but do not read reviews for apps).
  6. jellybean thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 27, 2006
    But users shouldn't be expected to preview books just to check if they're professionally written.
  7. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.

    Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.

    I didn't say that. In fact, I have found some truly splendid apps and had great interactions with app developers. But, then there are the bad ones. Lots of wasted money. I am sure there are many apps out there that I am missing out on big time. I wish more developers provided lite versions. I wish Apple allowed us to get refunds. If wishes were horses...

    I don't think you read my post at all. This is the exact opposite of what I said. I always do lots of research ahead of time. I expect that to be necessary, no matter how well a book or app is reviewed. Unfortunately, one person's "great app" is another one's buggy app that crashes on a regular basis.
  8. FloatingBones macrumors 65816


    Jul 19, 2006
    I think this is a brilliant question. I re-asked it on the O'Reilly answers website. O'Reilly hosts the annual Tools of Change Publishing Conference; they (and readers there) are experts who have probably thought about this problem extensively. I'll keep track of what people have said there and report back here.
  9. wovel macrumors 68000

    Mar 15, 2010

    Some good can come of it. There are a lot of new authors looking for feedback. Check out the kindle forums on Amazon some time. Some of the authors are pretty good. Others could use some refinement. Everyone needs an editor.

    I agree there is a lot of trash, but it is fairly easy to sift through.
  10. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPod; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_3_5 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/533.17.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0.2 Mobile/8L1 Safari/6533.18.5)

    The kindle forums are a good place to go. may i also suggest signing up for sites that enable you to read book galleys for free in exchange for reviews. at least there if you hit a bad one all you lose is a bit of time.
  11. TheWheelMan macrumors 6502a


    Mar 15, 2011
    I'm a graphic designer and I work with self published authors (I am one myself, but I haven't written much lately). I've also worked support for a Print on Demand company in the past. I've always said that the best thing about self publishing is that anyone can publish a book. The bad thing about self publishing is that anyone can publish a book. A lot of people just want to get their voice out there, and simply can't afford editing or graphic design services. Others don't respect the fact that writing is an actual skill rather than just a matter of throwing a bunch of words on a page. I even encountered a guy once who said that he had only read about 5 books in his life, but that he had seen a lot of movies, and that writing a book was no different. As a writer who has spent much time studying the craft, I really wanted to strangle that guy.
  12. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Yep. When everyone lets their voice be heard, they drowned out the ones we really want to hear. It's not that I am against people having a platform to self publish. I think it is really cool. But, without a way to wade through it all, the good authors and the interested readers lose out. Amazon has done a lot of incredible stuff, but their site remains surprisingly difficult to navigate, and extremely susceptible to scams.

    Anyhow, perhaps you would like to take this chance to plug some of your work :)
  13. TheWheelMan macrumors 6502a


    Mar 15, 2011
    Well, I generally write Science Fiction and Fantasy stuff. If anyone is interested, my one book I really feel is worth mentioning is Phoenix Tales: Stories of Death & Life. I've got other books and short stories out there as well, and you can click my name at the link above to find them. I'll feel better when I finally finish the new stuff I'm working on as I think it will be much better than most of my older stuff.

    One advantage I had as a writer is that I did a lot of writing, workshopping, and submitting to publications years before I ever self published my first piece. Most self published writers don't have any such experience, although I can tell you that their are increasing numbers of traditionally published authors who are turning to self publishing themselves for the ebook market, especially. So I think you will see an increasing number of higher quality self published books over time. But you'll always have a lot of not so great work out there as well. Readers will just have to become more discerning, although most self published works are priced low enough that at least your invest lost is usually minimal.
  14. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Thanks! I will take a look :)

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