Online reading, really?

October 24, 2009

Many people get all bent out of shape about reading books online. They gripe that resolution is crappy, that screen sizes are too small and that it’s ruining their eyes.

Shut up already.

Hasn’t the proliferation of news online made it clear that we’re moving ever-faster to an environment – if not a world – where our information might remain the same but the delivery mechanism has become more portable?

I think so. And I’m not saying that as a guy with a vested interest in having you devour my words. I’m just as happy to have you read my slogan for Gulf Oil on a billboard as I am to have you snicker at my Worries blog posts.

For those of us with messages to share – or even longer pieces like books and manifestos – we’re just crafting the story or the article, not creating the medium.

Now that my little soapboxing is complete, let me tell you the real reason for this post. A friend of mine asked me about online publishing as a viable option for her mother’s book. I went off on a tangent about trying out Lulu or other services and about how fantastic it was that she was moving forward with her plan.

“STOP,” said my friend.

Her mother had already used an online publisher and my friend was asking about promoting and selling the book. There were already cases in the trunks of all her family members and they were struggling to get recognized by the box stores as a ‘real’ book.

Aha! That’s really the trouble. When you have an idea for a book, if you don’t go through the traditional channels you’re out in the cold. For now.

Doing things yourself isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…in most cases.

It’s different with news, opinion and shorter pieces, but books still maintain a special place in the publishing world and in our consciousness. The battle against the Kindle shows that people still want a book they can leave on an airplane and not freak out about. Once you’ve left two or three Kindles on planes you might start to rethink the device at $400 a pop.

Essentially, I told my friend that she could use some social media tools to spread the word, she could set up a fan page on Facebook and get her mother on LinkedIn to share some expertise about being an author and about her topic matter.

I added that there was no guarantee and that the books might remain unsold. But if you’re doing it alone, the best you can hope for is to get people talking and reading about the book. Then someone in a publishing house might notice. Then you might get a break. Then you might sell some books.

It’s a tough business. But for those who have a story to tell, a message that must be shared, the hurdles are worth it.

What do you think of self-publishing and our slow transition to reading everything online?

Keep reading! Please. 🙂