Librarians have known for a long time that books, even works of fiction, can transform lives no matter where the reader lives. They can teach us not only that we’re not alone, but that there’s more than one way to look at any given situation.
However, for the average author, the advent of the Internet at first looked like it might be the end of a viable career-choice and not a new beginning. Publishing houses were slashing their mid-list authors, the writers whose books sell reasonable numbers but never break out into the territory of bestseller.
But something else was happening at the same time that was going to change everything. In 2007 the first e-reader, the Kindle from Amazon, was introduced and writers got a new, economical way to deliver a book.
The book market was about to become a democracy with all of the loud voices, terrible covers, great new writers and unedited manuscripts that usually go with an open door to a lot of wannabe writers.
Fortunately, reviewers have stepped into the fray and become the new gatekeepers to help the estimated 12 percent of all U.S. adults, according to Pew Research on who now own an e-reader, figure out what’s worthy of downloading. There were 14.7 million sold worldwide just last year and the numbers are rising.
That’s opened up an opportunity for bloggers who love to read and want to tell all of their friends about the new author they just found. Bloggers like Cathy at Kittling Books, www.kittlingbooks.com, whose motto is “Fire burns. Birds fly. Dogs bark. I read.” Or Ana and Thea at The Book Smugglers, www.thebooksmugglers.com, who explain right out front that they needed a healthy outlet for their obsession with reading and thought they’d share. All the rest of us are better off because they do.
There was a time when book reviewers were confined to newspapers or magazines and it was difficult for a new, unknown author to get noticed. A self-published author would not even get considered and it was assumed they were self-published because the book was turned down by mainstream publishing.
But e-readers eliminated a lot of the upfront costs and made it possible for some authors, particularly those mid-list ones, like myself to break out of the old system and try our hand at self-publishing, where the profit margins are more decidedly in the author’s favor.
All of this is turning out to be a renaissance of reading and that has to be good news.
• Martha’s column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. newspaper syndicate.