Friday, November 30, 2007

How can I still be cynical?

In the writing community, the announcement of Kindle: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device has been nothing short of momentous.

Personally, I've been a real snob when it came to e-books. I called them "the last act of the desperate" and lumped them in with self-publishing in terms of respectability. Whenever anybody told me they had an e-book out, I politely congratulated them but I always wondered why they were excited because in my mind, I couldn't imagine who was reading these things.

And to be honest, I still don't know who's reading e-books. I don't know a single soul who's read an e-book. Maybe I just don't get out much, you know? (If you or someone you know reads e-books, please write me or comment here. I'm increasingly curious about this phenomenon.)

But this year, things started to change in publishing. Practically all the traditional print publishers who put out erotica got bought, got sold, changed their focus, or otherwise disappeared. A few of the big houses (Penguin, Avon, and even Kensington, which is not quite as big but still hefty...) do have erotica imprints but they are erotic romance, which is actually quite different. (How? It's generally not very good, to be honest. Story lines are lame and predictable, there has to be some kind of happily ever after ending, and the emotional content is usually limited to the urgency of whatever libidinous desires are at hand.) Cleis Press publishes erotica but they're pretty cliquish about who they work with (and they micromanage every anthology to the point where the editor is superfluous anyway), so for all intents and purposes, you can't even count them as an erotica publisher.

So, what's an erotica writer to do? In this dearth of traditional publishers, e-books very quickly became the most viable option for writers looking for a way to get their work seen.

And now, with Amazon's release of Kindle, the stage seems set for enormous leaps forward in the e-book world. When I watched Amazon's video of this incredible electronic device, I found myself thinking, "Wow, that is so cool. No glare, no weight, and incredible versatility. I want one!" And I figure that if even I, the last of the great e-book cynics, am now ready to read an e-book, can the rest of the world be far behind?

A friend of mine is about to launch her own e-publishing company: Noble Romance Publishing. I'm excited not only because she's my friend, but because the timing seems simply perfect for her venture to do well. Another aspect of her company that I especially appreciate is what she intends to publish. I have been amazed by how many e-publishers claim that they will publish what the traditional houses won't -- yet when push comes to shove, they are looking for the same formulaic stuff that is tried and true and above all, limiting. There are some exceptions, of course, but as a rule, I haven't found most of the e-publishers to be terribly enamored of risk. They know that edgier books are harder to sell and have a smaller audience, so who can blame them for not embracing them? The thing is, though, how does any publisher really know what people want until they actually offer it to them? Noble Publishing is going to offer a wide mix of erotic material, so I guess we'll find out soon enough just what the reading public is ready for.

Addendum as of December 8: This great article extolls Kindle's virtues beautifully.

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