Thursday, June 23, 2011

Place in Fiction

I just returned from a wonderful vacation in Seattle. All that green reminded me so much of home--I grew up in the St. Louis area. My wife and I loved it, and we hope to come back in a few years.

As a writer, my brain's wheels kept turning as we went through all the landmarks: how could I use this setting in a story? A murder mystery in Pike Place Market? A romance that featured Defiance Point? An supernatural adventure on Mount Rainer?

I find that I do this whenever we go on vacation. Of course, I can't write fast enough to get every setting in that I want to. I also worry about the research necessary to really do the place justice. Will I remember it like it really was when I get back home, in front of the computer screen?

So, my questions are these:

1) For writers, do you find yourself doing what I do when you visit a new place? Also, how important is place in your writing? Do you like to use exotic settings, or do you stick to what you know?

2) For readers, do you prefer the setting in books to be in the forefront (like a character itself), or does it not matter, as long as the place seems real?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Response to "5 Reasons Why E-Books Aren't There Yet"

Yesterday, this article popped up on Wired:

Go read it. Back yet? Okay.

So here's my response to the list.

1) An unfinished e-book isn’t a constant reminder to finish reading it.

Maybe not, but as I type, I have a few shelves full of dead tree books (DTBs) behind me that I haven't read, either. For me, it's the book that makes me want to finish it, not the format.

In fact, I've read more books since February, when my wife and I bought our Kindles, than I have in total over the last three years. I'm reading again thanks to eBooks.

2) You can't keep your books all in one place.

At first, I was scratching my head on this, because I do keep my books all in one place: on my Kindle. And, in an advantage over DTBs, I can send a copy of my books to my wife's Kindle or to her smart phone. Can't do that with a physical book, and besides, it's not like I keep my physical books all on one shelf either (some are scattered throughout the house, others are in storage).

But the focus of Abell's article is more about format incompatibility. To be fair, this might be an annoyance, but, personally, I shop exclusively from Amazon and haven't found any books unavailable there that are available on iBookstore or B&N. A question: how many of you out there actually utilize multiple online bookstores?

3) Notes in the margins help you think.

The Kindle allows you to make notes quite easily. In fact, it even makes an index file of your notes. No, you don't see your note actually in the margins, but I like that. If I annotate a DTB, there's no way to turn off my annotations. eBooks allow that.

4) E-books are positioned as disposable, but aren't priced that way.

eBook prices ignite a lot of controversy, that's for sure. It does seem ridiculous when the eBook price is the same as the paperback (I've even seen instances where the eBook is higher). This is where we're seeing a lot of success for indie authors, and why I don't plan on pricing any of my forthcoming titles higher than $5. This isn't a drawback of the format, though, but rather one of business practices by publishers.

5) E-books can't be used for interior design.

Okay... maybe not. Still, for me, that's a small price to pay for eliminating the massive amount of space that DTBs take up. Like I said earlier, I have boxes of books stacked in my garage, and a few nearly-full bookshelves in the house. And how often do I read an individual title? Once? Maybe twice? (Except for a few favorites, of course.) 

More to the point is that, with eBooks, I now feel free to buy books I'd be cautious, or even embarrassed, to lug around in public. And that just means that my reading world is more open than ever.

I do like that Abell acknowledges the strengths of the e-format, and that ebooks are here to stay (though, at this point, who could deny that?). However, it seems like three of the five items on the list are simply incorrect. I'll also concede that though two of the items don't apply to me, they might apply to others.

Am I wrong, here? Let me know in the comments.