For the past year, I’ve been doing the indie thing- writing and self-publishing my own novels on Amazon, B&N, etc. During that time I’ve learned quite a lot and have come to the conclusion that SFF fans are luddites when it comes to the literary scene.
I don’t base this on my own pitiful sales. I went into it knowing that it’s a long shot to sell much, given there are over a million books for sale on Kindle. I also realize that selecting a niche market, New Pulp, might not have been the best idea either. Then there’s always the possibility that I just suck as an author.
But I still say SFF fans are literary luddites.
I base this on numbers. Indie authors like to talk about numbers- over at the KBoards Writer’s Café, they talk stats all the time. From them, I’ve learned that 70% or so of all ebook sales are in the smut category- sorry, Romance/Erotica category. Oh, and they also claim about 70% of all ereader owners are women.
I could fact check those numbers, but it’s far easier to just go to Kindle’s main search page and take a look at the top 100 sellers. As I write this, the first SFF that jumps out at me is George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones at #29, followed by a World War Z book at #30. But those are traditional publishers. Not Indies. Traditional publishers throw around more advertising money in a month than I’ve made in my whole pitiful career as a public servant (no, I don’t write for a living). Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration.
Nope, the Top 100 paid books at Kindle are either traditionally published adapted to ebook format, or “Romance”-themed novels with covers featuring shirtless men or young girls staring vacantly off into space. Because, apparently, that’s what women want to read.
It’s not just there that SFF lacks electronic respect. Consider Will Murray’s recent Doc Savage vs. King Kong novel Skull Island. Did it come out as an ebook? Not at first. Nope, first it was a print edition. Why is that? Why not release it as both?
And of course, in the process of trying to get my own meager contribution to the SFF literary world reviewed, I learned that many reviewers turn their noses up at ebooks- they want print copies only.
I find this baffling, and very disheartening. I get that a lot of Pulp fans are old fuddy duddies who may not understand FTPs, Servers, Email and what HTML coding is, and therefore cling desperately to their dead trees. I get that collecting is a huge part of being an SFF fan and that you can’t show off an ebook collection to visitors to your home without firing up some kind of computer.
But what about the rest of you?
For years we all wished for portable TVs to watch in our flying cars. The movie BIG even featured Tom Hanks’ character proposing a digital comic book reader- something many a young comic book reader had wanted for some time. Then there’s Star Trek with it’s tricorders and PADDs.
We live in an age of pocket computing now. The future is finally here. No, we can’t fly to work every morning, but we have smart phones and tablets and tricorder and PIPBoy apps to let us geek out and appease our inner SFF child. Why then do we not have ereaders?
Aside from the collecting aspect, what is so bad about an reader? Okay, I’ll give you that they require electricity. And that on a bright day they are hard to read outside. Other than that, what is the downside to e-reading?
Water? Drop a paperback into a pool and see if you can still read it. Your tablet might actually be salvageable- a phone sure is, if you know the old uncooked rice trick.
Size? Yes, a paperback will fit in your back pocket. No, you wouldn’t want to put your tablet or smart phone in your back pocket as you might forget and sit on it.
You like the way a paperback feels in your hands? How about a tablet- it can be held in one hand- and weighs about the same. You have a hand free, meaning you can hold that tablet up longer.
Yes, I keep talking about tablets- that’s because those indies-in-the-know like to cite articles that ereader sales are down, because consumers are buying tablets instead. Tablets that can surf the web, watch movies and play games. Try that on your paperback.
When you look at it objectively, tablets and ereaders are far superior to reading a dead tree. They are self illuminated. They can carry hundreds of novels. They do other stuff.
Why then are they not more popular among avid readers? I just don’t get it. Many women read Victorian-era crotch novels (as my dearly departed grandfather always called them) on 21st century pocket computers, while SFF fans cling to combustible paper throwbacks. What is that all about?
What is it about SFF that appeals to you as a fan? Technology for the Science Fiction fans, I’d hope. Magic for the Fantasy fans. What is more magical than a modern tablet? What is more the epitome of modern technology? Can you imagine Tony Stark stomping around in medieval armor? Would you have enjoyed the movies anywhere near as much? Would Star Trek have been as appealing if it had been set on a sailing ship, and the crew rowed ashore to discover new islands, while boldly fighting the effects of scurvy?
Before you claim that tablets and ereaders are expensive… yes, I agree. They are. But you know what? Ebooks are often cheaper. And not just indie ones. Paperbacks are upwards of $10 now. Buy just fifteen novels in one year and you’ve spent as much as an ereader would cost. And if you read considerably more than fifteen books in one year, it won’t take long to get to the point where it would have been cheaper to buy an ereader and the ebook versions. Which you could carry around all at once, instead of taking up valuable shelf space that could used for your licensed prop replicas and action figure collections.
In my opinion, it is downright disgraceful that the SFF community weren’t the early adopters of ereaders and that we haven’t cornered the market for ebooks. Of all the readers out there, we are the ones that should be embracing technology, instead of clinging to the archaic.