Drawbacks of a Long Infancy

Infant product class, that is. eBooks. I read a lot of ’em. So far, very few eBooks seem to take advantage of the medium to expand beyond print format, and many are weaker products than hardcopy books. Here’s a brief blurb of my consumer-of-print viewpoint.

Many books can benefit from maps, tables and other reference materials. With hardcopy books, these are often included, and if not I often have the material to hand (or nearby) to fill the gaps. eBooks that can benefit from such addenda need them even more than print works, because they’re often read in locales where such things are unavailable even to someone like me who has a wide-ranging reference library at hand. Such things should be included in eBooks that would benefit from them, and they should be, at the very least, context sensitive. For example, when maps are called for, scalable, zoomable satellite or aerial maps (with helpful labeling, perhaps) could be included with little more trouble than simple line-drawing maps. Use your imagination to supply supplementary materials lists eBook authors should include. You’ll have to, though, because so far very few authors have used theirs in that manner.

As to those eBooks that are weaker products than corresponding print works. *sigh* One of the worst examples I can think of offhand was a novel written by a very good writer before eBooks had really taken off. I read it expecting not great but good fun. The story was OK, as were the characters, descriptive narrative and dialog, but… he’d apparently just scanned it–or had it scanned–and converted to electronic format and apparently had not even had it proof read. Too many obvious scanning errors ruined enjoyment of the book. But that’s just one of the worst. Self-published, author edited or proofread (or author edited AND proofread) eBooks seem to be about 85% POORLY edited and proofread. Good lord, folks! Execrable grammar, spelling and punctuation just barely scratches the surface of many crap-laden plots, dialog, descriptive narrative and characters crudely drawn in crayon from B-movie central casting descriptions!

Yes, there are a lot of well-written, well-edited/proofread “Indie” published books available, but the numbers of well-written “Indie” books is only because so very much chaff is out there to winnow the well-written books out of. It’s a real pain in the neck (although the pain’s really quite a bit further south of there) to be reading along thinking, “Interesting story–OH CRAP! GETCHER SYNTAX OUTA YOUR ASS!” or “SPELLCHECK, DUMBASS, SPELLCHECK!!” or “WTF! YOU DIDN’T JUST ‘THERE’S’ ME AGAIN! over and over again.

I’m sure both the crap writing and the features blocks will work themselves out in time, though. eBooks are still in a development phase, and some writers, at least, seem to be thinking seriously about some of these things. Thank heavens. *sigh*

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