Thursday, September 9, 2010


e-books and us

After reading Linda’s reflections on the value of critiquing groups in general and the Ladies’ Killing Circle in particular I must add that because of the group I have more than a dozen short stories and three novels published. Their frank and occasionally brutal assessments of my work inspired me to listen, learn and
internalize their comments. Now I’m afraid that all the critiquing groups in the world aren’t going to help most Canadian mystery writers.

Why this dire prediction? Because it’s looking more and more as if e-books are the future and Canadian small press publishers haven’t negotiated the terms to get our books on e readers.

In the US this last quarter both Barnes and Noble and Borders reported large losses. Along with Indigo/Chapters, these US stores have discounted best sellers, failed to promote the works of small publishers and devoted large sections of their stores to gift items that have nothing to do with books. In other words they’ve done everything they can to monopolize the market and make money but it isn’t happening. If these behemoths can’t do it, can’t sell books for a profit what will happen to books printed on paper and to bookstores?

E-book readers are easy to read and the books are half the price of their print counterparts. But if bookstores and books disappear we will all be poorer. There will be no trading books with friends, no donations of books to libraries, no bookcases filled with old favourites or with the books you read as a child.

Some categories may survive. Coffee table books filled with glorious photographs or paintings may not transfer well to e readers. Parents may still demand children’s books. It’s difficult to visualize curling up with a child and an e reader although among the multitude of aps on the Apple pad there are appealing children’s books. Perhaps a new larger size of reader suitable for picture books and coffee table books may be in the works.

Whatever the options it seems likely e-books are the way of the future.
Because small Canadian publishers have not reached an agreement about the publication of e-books our books are not there, are not available. If we are going to survive as writers, readers must have the option of downloading our books.
I know that small publishers with few employees have banded together to try to negotiate a deal to make this happen. Our survival depends on e-books.

Is there anything we can do? Any way that we can help?

Joan Boswell A member of the Ladies Killing Circle Joan co-edited four of their short story anthologies: Fit toDie, Bone Dance, Boomers Go Bad and Going Out With a Bang. Her three mysteries, Cut Off His Tale, Cut to the Quick and Cut and Run were published in 2005, 2007 and 2007. In 2000 she won the $10,000 Toronto Star’s short story contest. Joan lives in Toronto with three flat-coated retrievers.


  1. You're so right, Joan. In a recent letter from my US publisher they said that e-books sales have really taken off and it will be reflected in our royalty payments, and "should escalate fairly quickly from there." He went on to mention that all the different formats is presenting a real challenge.

  2. Well said, Joan. Many of the mystery readers I know have transferred to ebooks and are loving them. I saw that in my last royalty cheque. I hope by the end of this year that Canadian publishers will catch up. We don't want to miss out.


  3. Good points, Joan although I'm at odds with myself over this one. More readers versus the demise of the printed word. Not a happy choice, for me.

  4. It's worrisome no matter how you look at it but If we want to sell books we definitely have to get with the program.

  5. As the reading population ages, these readers will be a lifeline to people with vision problems. You can adjust the print, the product is lightweight and truly portable. But the book is here to stay too. TV didn't kill radio or movies. Video didn't kill TV. Just more choices and more challenges.


  6. i've had a Kindle from the first day they were sold - i'm now in the process of gaining complete "rights" control to my first 2 novels, which i intend to offer on Amazon as free e-books - Deborah and i have perhaps 3,000 books in the house, we both buy a lot more - e-books, via Kindle, let me indulge my jones for new fiction without having to store 12 more books a month, most of which would have trouble find space

    my former editor at Harper (now at Simon & Schuster) puts it this way - she'll always work to provide the best content she can, but the source (print, e-book, whatever) is not her decision - content and source, this is how i deal with the growing e-book phenomenon

  7. As much as I love holding the actual book in my hands, I can no longer read that way as I have severe arthritis. E-books have been a blessing for me, I'm back to reading with a vengeance. I still love to go to the bookstore to check out the books though, I love to look at the covers.