So, back in May, I was perusing Twitter and stumbled across the #ScottishEBookDay. Clicking on it, I found to my delighted many Scottish book lovers and publishers tweeting happily and celebrating ebooks. Yes, ebook fans do exist!
So, I got a wee bit excited because I still find that to say you like ebooks means you’re a traditional-book hater; that I’ve left hardcopy books behind for the coldness of a screen and a book whose page I’ll never hold and never turn. How can someone love books if they’d prefer the electronic, paperless version to the traditional version?
Yeah, that’s still out there. So the idea that someone somewhere realised that maybe ebooks aren’t bringing about the end of the traditional book and went to the trouble of creating a celebration all about ebooks made me giddy.
I did a little more digging and found an article by Laura Waddell, the creator of this day in which she describes how she became an ebook advocate. And here’s the thing, it didn’t mean she’d left hardcopy books behind, but instead found that ebooks complemented her love of paperbacks. And, yes carrying an ebook reader made her bag — already filled with work stuff — lighter, and I rejoiced because I found someone, like me, to whom this mundane little detail mattered.
So, I got into contact with her to learn more about how #ScottishEbookday came about.
Laura, can you give us some background about yourself?
I studied modernist literature at the University of Glasgow, and started my graduate working life as an assistant to the author Sara Sheridan. I currently work as a freelance digital marketing strategist, mostly for clients in the fields of arts and publishing, such as Picture Hooks (a wonderful picture book illustrator career development scheme). When I can fit it in, I also write short fiction, literary reviews and the occasional journalistic article.
What was your initial reaction to ebooks and what prompted you to change your mind?
I’m a huge lover of paper. My bookshelves are overflowing, and I collect vintage books and ephemera. I had always thought of ebooks as something other people read. I was under the impression giving them a go might cheapen the reading experience. However, I spend what feels like half my life on trains, and one day had forgotten the paperback I was midway through (Merryn Glover’s A House Called Askival) ahead of a long journey. I downloaded it and realised how convenient and instantly accessible ebooks are in that situation. I think I’ll always personally prefer a paperback, but I’ve now started reading ebooks on my commute, and it’s genuinely handy. My bag is also regularly full of books and pamphlets I’m working with, and it lessens the load slightly. My initial phobic reaction was wrong.
What made you decide to create #ScottishEbookDay?
Coinciding with my personal ebook journey, I’ve been working at dynamic Scottish publishing imprint Freight Books recently and wanted to spread the word about some of our titles available at great prices on ebook as well as promote an aspect of the Scottish publishing industry that hasn’t been celebrated in this way before.
How did publishers/those in the book industry respond compared to readers, in general?
I got in touch with other indie publishers ahead of time, and lots of them joined in, as well as individual authors, book festivals, arts and culture programmers, academics, and libraries promoting their e-lending services. A varied bunch. I was thrilled with the response, and some support came from unexpected places such as the local EU parliament office sharing their digital information pamphlets. I’m glad the event was able to facilitate awareness of what’s out there. We had readers from overseas excited to check out Scottish fiction, and one of the most enjoyable aspects for me was giving recommendations to readers who tweeted to the Freight Books account with examples of their tastes. Hopefully I’ve paired them up with some ebooks they’ll enjoy!
Did you experience any sort of negativity to celebrating ebooks through #ScottishEbookday?
I think there was one solitary tweet urging people to turn to paperbacks instead.
Did you expect such a response/s?
I hadn’t anticipated negativity and fortunately most people who joined in were very positive. My old attitude towards ebooks was similar, before I realised they’re not so threatening, and how other people choose to enjoy reading isn’t either!
Are ebooks going to take over the world, replacing the paperback? Why do you think people are so intent on holding on to this sort of thinking?
I don’t think ebooks are going to replace the paperback. Although they originally took a significant percentage of the market share and sales of ereaders were strong, physical books are still outselling ebooks. The media loves a scare story, and ebooks were a popular one for a while, tapping into that fear of change I also once had. Personally, my reading experience is that the ebook is an addition, not a replacement.
In your experience, how have ebooks changed publishing?
To answer a complicated question in brief, ebooks have opened the doors to new forms of publishing and made the spread of information easier than ever before. It’s now possible to self-publish with international accessibility, or for smaller publishing houses to take risks on the unknown. Whilst more content doesn’t necessarily mean good quality content, overall this is good news for alt lit, poets, and thriving niche online communities amongst others. Marketing has changed to reflect that purchases can now be immediate, and not dependent upon access to a physical bookshop which is great for readers unable to access them. I personally also hope to see a rise in high quality production values for physical books to capitalise upon the feelings of appreciation for paper that the prospect of ebooks can inspire!