Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Let's hear them: ebook fears

I want to hear your ebooks fears.

I have this belief -- rightly or wrongly -- that saying what you're afraid of will help.

(I'm also thinking that it might help us generate some posts that may address specific things you're thinking about.)

So here are rules to this post: You can only state your fears. Please don't fix other people. Or propose solutions. Or, in general, minimize a fear. Let's just put them out there.

And let's agree to this: Some fears have some basis in fact and others are just fear. But both feel just as real.

Here are mine:

I'm afraid for things I love. I'm afraid...
  • that bookstores are going to disappear,
  • with browsing through stacks of books, the smell of books, the different colored spines of varying thicknesses and trying to gauge my mood and choosing a book.
  • and libraries (with their stacks of books -- see above)
  • and review journals (which I desperately want to exist, which I recognize as important, but which I don't want to read because they distract me from writing stories)
  • that wonderful editors will be replaced by media specialists.
As for myself as an author, I'm afraid...
  • that I won't be able to write for the new media. (Whatever it maybe scrolling text across sunglasses that you wear while driving -- oh who knows?!? But it will leave me without a clue.)
  • that I won't have the technology skills to be able to do this.
  • that I'll never be able to escape social media and that my ability to concentrate will be permanently damaged.
  • that if I choose to epublish an out-of-print title I'll make some super dumb mistakes and the book will look stupid. People-laughing-at-me-for-the-rest-of-my-life-and-put-it-on-my-tombstone stupid.
  • that somehow digital piracy will take off (or some such thing) and there will never ever NEVER be a way for me to make a living as a writer ever again.
  • that I will miss out on this ONE opportunity. Another will never come again. Not ever.
  • that I'm going to have to start dressing up in costume, learn to play ukulele really well, and tap dance in order to be a writer in this new world. I'll be pawning my books on the train platforms, etc.
  • that I'll get sick of the whole thing, and will move to Plan B: Build own log cabin, no phone lines, no internet, but with a cow, a goat, a bunch of chickens and a German Shepherd. (Woodswoman, here I come!)
My biggest fear? That I will be too fearful to try.
What are your fears? Tell all! (Remember, no fixing my fears or anybody elses!)

Amy Timberlake


  1. My fear is that somebody who works at my very favorite indie bookseller will see me reading my Kindle and hate me forever... not sure that one's unfounded. Hm. e

  2. I'm afraid books will go the way of the music industry except we don't have concert revenue to fall back on.

  3. Amy, I can relate to all of your fears... My biggest fear regarding ebooks is that we're doomed if we do and doomed if we don't. That probably covers it all!

  4. My biggest fears are that picture books will cease to exist or will exist only as art objects for devotees; and that small children will be read to by their devices, not their parents, who will be too busy.

    I hope you'll follow this with "biggest hopes." Otherwise we'll all get too depressed!

  5. Thanks everyone! I just think it's good to get them out there. And yeah, I think a biggest hope is a good idea!

  6. my biggest fear is that we will forget to go outside because we can't read our screens when it brilliantly sunny and we're afraid our screens will get wet and sandy at the beach...we may be saving trees but I'm afraid we'll forget to sit under them.

    Yes. I vote for a column on hope.

  7. Excellent post, not sure I have any fear not already mentioned....oooo, got one:

    An EMP* blast from the Sun fries all our computers, iPads, phones, cars, satellites, power grid...

    *electromagnetic pulse

  8. I fear that ebooks will bring about a new wave of illiteracy among poor children, as they won't have access to digital resources and publishers print less.

    I fear scam artists capitalizing on the endless digital slushpile, promising to direct people to good books for a fee and instead doing what any search engine could do.

    I fear pointless lawsuits a la the RIAA, as publishers try to "stop piracy" instead of figuring out how to increase sales.

    I fear libraries being sued for loaning ebook readers with books on them.

    I fear the loss of comic books more than the loss of novels. They don't translate well to digital.

    I fear international copyright advocates will shut down all the Gutenberg sites unless they set up strict geo-policing of downloads.

    I fear that stricter publisher limits on ebooks will cause an increase in piracy and "it's not worth getting the legal version" attitudes.

    I fear that new ebook readers will be loaded with web access, games, and all sorts of weird apps instead of improving the actual book-reading software.

    I fear a legal movement toward "1 purchase = 1 reader," and an end to booksharing in literary communities.

  9. I also worry about illiteracy . . . What about the kids that don't have access to computers? Yeah, thanks. Those are good things to think about too . . .

  10. I am afraid that the wave of free content for everything will be the norm leaving wonderful illustrators and writers unable to make a living. I'm afraid that if this happens what will be left will not be the quality of what it could be and that everyone will lose.

  11. Great post, Amy. Along the lines of Loreen's EMP fear, I worry about books becoming a lot more ephemeral than they were before. That you can buy (license?) a book and then, two or three or five years later, the technology has changed and you can't read your books anymore. Or the files get corrupted (I have some audiobooks that skip now).

    I worry about the tensions between publishers and readers that result in the book creators getting blamed for the way ebooks are priced (see Amazon reviews for examples).

    I worry about the fact that librarians are talking about boycotting my publisher because of some new ebook lending rules (and I'm not even sure I blame them).

    And I worry about trying to find a way to work while all this stuff is being hashed out.

  12. I fear that I can't keep up with techology-
    But my biggest fear is that publishers are spending so much money & time getting "into" ebooks and re-publishing exisiting content in these formats, that they will not be buying NEW manuscripts.

  13. Okay, I worry about the changing tech too -- that everything will be obsolete next month and we'll have to start over.

    This is all good stuff.

    Yeah, and the Amazon review thing is a good point too. How will authors explain this to their readers as all this social media brings us maybe TOO close to our readers and they don't see the middleman at all?

    Interesting . . . Stuff to explore!

  14. I fear being left behind.