eBooks: Do People Really Read Them?

By William J. Lambert III
Feb. 25, 2005

[Internationally best-selling novelist, William J. Lambert III, whose written over one-hundred books, in the complete gamut of existing genres, comments on a few of his William Maltese and Willa Lambert books released in electronic (and Audio) formats].

A couple of my publishers are suddenly “into” electronic publishing. iUniverse issued my William Maltese circuSex in that format; and now, NightWares, LLC, who’s publishing my latest sci-fi book, BOND-SHATTERING, has released the HTML ADOBE and PALM™ eBOOK versions of that book before the official print version hits the stands.

Granted, electronic books are cheaper and more easily accessed (with a few clicks of the computer mouse for download of appropriate software and book text), than are their hard- copy counterparts; I know that there are various eBOOK retail sites, springing up all over the Internet, providing extensive readings lists, along with hints that eBOOKS are the next big “thing” in publishing — BUT — my question is: Are there really people out there who read these books on PC screens and/or on the tiny screens of those small palm-held electronic devises? In that, I’ve noticed, on the NightWares’ discussion pages, there seems to be very little activity from readers who should — wouldn’t you think? — be fascinated by the prospect of having a one-on-one (albeit computer) dialogue with the authors?; although, the publisher insists that the majority of his books sell to the electronic-book market

While I read an awfully lot, I confess to having read only two electronic books in my lifetime, those being circuSex and BOND-SHATTERING, both written by yours-truly. And I found doing it, while staring at a computer screen, too downright trying, exhausting, eye-straining, and uncomfortable, especially compared to my curling up with the tactile pleasures of a bound book, seated before a warm fireplace, complete with crackling logs, comforter across my knees, an ice-bucket of cool white wine (and appropriate wine glass) within easy reach. Then again, maybe I’m out of sync with the present generation who, used to fast foods, fast computer games, fast just-about-everything, finds even less time than I do, these days, to prolong any reading process by calling in the once-necessary accoutrements of fireplace, comfortable chair, comfy blanket, wingback easy chair, white wine (with appropriate wine glass), and — even, yes — the de rigueur accompanying visit from the — circling, circling, claws-kneading, claws- kneading, finally sitting, finally sitting — family cat.

Curious as any writer (or as any writer should be), I took a recent unofficial/unscientific survey of one-hundred people that included friends, acquaintances, relatives, and just the average man/woman on the street. I tried to include all age groups, suspecting that electronic reading, like every other “thing” electronic, these days, would be pretty much the more familiar bailiwick of those “youngsters” who spend so much of their time at PCs, these days, doing whatever it is they do, taking so long to do it. The sad fact (at least from this author’s perspective) being, that out of that century of people I surveyed, I found not one who had read an electronic book or even contemplated reading one at any time in the immediate future. I found several who were surprised to hear that books were even available in that format; although, hearing it didn’t seem to find them any more inclined to sample what was available.

Several of those to whom I talked had experienced books via audio-formats, usually while driving in their cars to and from work, or on vacation. I can remember, in fact, when “books-on-tape” were being touted as the “next big thing in publishing”, even had four of my books go that route for Books In Motion (LOVE'S EMERALD FLAME; FROM THIS BELOVED HOUR; JUNGLE QUEST INTRIGUE; VIPER'S NEST INTRIGUE). The only audio books I’ve ever sampled having been my own; in that, while thoroughly enjoyed being read to, as a child, by my mother, the Books In Motion “way” of providing their readings in a theatrical manner, one person assuming all of the book’s roles and characters, including attempts to mimic male and female intonations — in order to distinguish between the sexes, even identify nationalities — didn’t see me all that anxious to move on to any other selections, other than my own books, in that particular format. Although, admittedly, I still think I’d fare better with just those straight-forward narrations provided by authors of their own work, the actor “ham” element completely removed from the presentation

In the end, I’m not holding my breath, expecting electronic books (anymore than the books on tape) to come to the rescue of the publishing business which is reputedly becoming hard- pressed for readers with the time to read ANY book in ANY of the please-try-these formats. Or, maybe, I’m just a dinosaur unable to read the writing on the wall that predicts the dawning of a new age of literary enlightenment through interaction with the glare of some computer screen.

Or, maybe, more likely, this is just sour grapes from an author who thinks there should be more people out there buying his “stuff”, whether it be in hard-copy, audio, or via HTML ADOBE and PALM™ eBOOK versions.


About the author William J. Lambert III: Take a look at his books:

Written under his pseudonyms, William Maltese:


Email: the.lambert.iii.laager@worldnet.att.net

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