Tuesday, December 14, 2010
E-books and E-publishers – should there be standards?
I firmly believe e-ink technology is the best thing to happen to books since the printing press. I absolutely love my Sony Reader, and every time I pick up a monster hardcover (the latest Wheel of Time book comes to mind), I gain a new appreciation for the fact that I can carry an entire library in my purse. I love how accessible books are. I love that so many out-of-print titles are making an electronic comeback, and I love how e-books have opened up a whole new world of unique, small-press and self-published voices.
Over the past year, I’ve bought e-books from no fewer than a dozen different online bookstores, and that doesn’t include the titles I’ve bought directly from the authors, or that I’ve received from other sources for review.
What I’ve noticed, and what’s really begun to annoy me lately, is that there are seemingly no standards for how an e-book is produced or marketed.
Some stores/publishers provide you with a page count, others with a file-size, and others with nothing at all. Unless you’re buying a mass-market title, you really don’t know what you’re getting. Sometimes you can use the file-size as a rough guide, but that can so easily be inflated by a high-resolution cover, interior artwork, or just the format of the book itself, that it’s often meaningless. A short story can be over 1MB in size, and a full-length novel can easily be in the range of 150kb.
I don’t know how many times I’ve bought an e-book figuring I was at least getting a decent-sized novella, only to discover it’s a very short story.
I'm not saying that other material isn't important, and I completely understand the value of cross-promotion, but when your book is more filler than story, that's a pretty poor deal in my book. I paid to read the author's words, and I based the 'fair value' I was willing to pay on how much story I thought I was getting for my money. It's upsetting when you feel like you've been ripped off, and it sours you on the experience of that publisher (and potentially that author, which isn't fair).
What do you think? I am overreacting, or has anybody else experienced that same frustration? Have you just come to expect the unknown factor that comes with opening an e-book, or do you perhaps just restrict yourself to known authors and publishers?