How Do You Read?
Written by
The Salonniere
November 2010
Written by
The Salonniere
November 2010
This never used to be a question. Kamy Wicoff asks: How do you read? You read by opening up a book, or picking up any piece of paper with letters printed on it, and go! Now this has all changed. With e-books exponentially increasing in popularity in ways that have taken the industry by surprise (but not Jeff Bezos) publishers everywhere are scrambling to respond, and so are revered institutions like the New York Times. This morning, the Times announced that it will be publishing bestseller lists for e-book fiction and nonfiction beginning in early 2011 -- a hugely important development for authors and publishers given the fact that e-book sales are beginning to comprise a significant portion of the total sales for any given title. (Several publishers told me this summer that they were frustrated by the fact that their authors' total sales weren't reflected on the bestseller lists for this reason.) It is also significant because in this new system, some titles may be bestsellers in e-book form, but not in print. What does this mean for us -- women who write? To me, these changes present an exciting opportunity to open the world of writing, which for many centuries has been built on a model of scarcity, keeping 99% of people who want to publish OUT and deriving value from this exclusivity, to a more transparent model based on generosity and abundance. When it is possible to publish without a publisher, to print without printing, many more writers can share their stories, and produce work in many more forms and genres than fit into the literary-headlock of the traditional 250-page hardcover book. (How many nonfiction books do you know, in particular, that would have been oh-so-much better if they'd been half as long?) Look at the experiments already underway, in the form of audio magazines like Textsound, with innovative poetry sites like Cellpoems, and poets like Anne Carson experimenting with the print book itself, exquisitely imagined in her captivating "Nox", an accordion-style book-in-a-box, with mixed media on textured pages that engage a reader's senses in a rich, non-digital way. So how do you read? We would love to know -- please take a minute to answer that question in our latest She Writes survey. One thrilling prospect I see in all of this? When storytellers are not dependent on institutions and gatekeepers to give them permission to tell their stories to a wide audience, or even reach the small audience given a chance to decide what it wants to read and hear -- groups traditionally kept on the outside will find, for the first time, a door in to the world that nobody can block, bully, intimidate or prevent them from opening and walking through. Think of the Afghan Women's Writing Project, which fulfills its mission of empowering Afghan women to have a voice in the world, against all odds, by leveraging digital technologies, and you will know what I mean. That is not just thrilling -- it's revolutionary. She Writers: what do you see as the opportunities presented by this dizzying moment of innovation and creativity -- and what makes you wary? RELATED ARTICLES The Beginner's Guide to Electronic Publishing from She Writes Techie Mia Eaton Amazon: Kindle Books Now Outselling Hardcovers from Mashable E-Books Ready to Climb Past $1Billion from Forrester And the Most Popular Way to Read An E-Book Is... from

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  • Valarie Rocha

    I think this is fabulous for new writer such as myself because it eases the fears of what to do after my work has be edited and polished to my approval.  Also many people do not like to read because it seems so time consuming but if you allow them the ability to listen while they can multitask i.e. exercising, chores etc. then it can be much more beneficial. 

  • Eunice Boeve

    I just got a Kindle and since I do a lot of my leisure reading after I go to bed, I find it much easier to handle than a book.  But I love the smell, feel, and sight  of books. I also like to share books. I can't share an e-book

  • Kim Steutermann Rogers

    Any and every way I can:  Print, e and audio.  The new options just allow me to read MORE books.

  • Atiya

    I read both e and print. But I prefer print

  • Monette Dalley

    I read any way I can: scraps of paper on the kitchen table that need clearing, signs along the road, over a person's shoulder in the metro, upside down when the page is facing the other way, e-book when I get my hands on it, my eyes closed as I listen to my son 'read' the story in his head after I have read him a story in a book. For as long as I can remember, I have read everything my eyes set on, and wrote everything my mind lit upon. The two go together, no?



  • Ginger McKnight-Chavers

    Just to qualify my previous comment, I still love real books, real bookstores. But, given my current family and life situation, reading requires lugging books around with me from early in the morning until late at night, which was not happening. The Kindle enabled me to join the land of the literate again - not an exaggeration. I still buy books that I just want to have on the shelf, but 90% of the time I read electronically - out of necessity, not preference.

  • Ginger McKnight-Chavers

    Having a Kindle has actually made it easier for me to read. Given all the responsibilities and stresses that suck up my middle-aged, sandwich-generation life, I am barely able to write, much less indulge in one of my favorite activities, reading. The Kindle is so convenient to carry around, that I'm able to sneak in a few pages here and there in between picking up people and waiting on people and taking care of people. I have read more books over the last year of owning a Kindle than I did in the few years prior. The electronic publishing revolution is a welcome change for me, because it makes it more convenient for me to read - as I carry around 5,000 songs on my ipod (can you imagine the number of record crates?) in my pocket, I'm currently carrying at least 30 books in my handbag on my Kindle.

  • Dana DuGan

    Books are artwork. They fill me with adventure, romance, thought provoking behavior and verse, and afterward line my shelves like decoration. So much cheaper than a painting. I never go anywhere without a book. A portable screen--Nook, Kindle--is a great idea, and I know the industry will grow for all our sakes. But I will always be most at home in a room full of books.

  • Barbara Ehrentreu

    The e-book revolution means a lot to me since my book is going to be published first in an e-book format and that makes me feel that it will be read more than I thought. It is not being self-published, but it is being published by a company that is primarily e-book format. I think that this new tracking is going to be a boon to publishers who do e-books. With the Kindle and the Nook people can now take their e-books anywhere they want to read them. I'm looking forward to seeing how this translates to more sales.:) My book isn't out yet so I'm hoping that in the next half year or so the e-book revolution will have exploded!!

  • Amy Wise

    I just had this converstion with a friend yesterday. We were in Barnes and Noble talking about missing the small book stores, and holding books in our hands. It's ironic that I'm so torn about e-readers because for many years I worked in the internet advertising field long before it was the norm. I'm used to new technology and embracing it. I have nine different sites that I check each day that I either write for or am tied to in way or another. I have a love/hate relationship with the internet, technology and my computer. It has brought about friendships, connections and opportunities that otherwise would not have been there. However sometimes I have to force myself to step away and go breathe some fresh air! Okay, I digress...back to the conversation at hand.....I have yet to buy an e-reader in any form as I can't give up holding a book in my hand, and turning the paper pages. I can't bring myself to go there, so that is one bit of technology that I can't quite embrace, at least not yet. I love that doors are opening for so many because of this technology and I never knock progress but I have to "feel" my books, look at them on the shelf, decide which one to read next, and anticipate turning that first page and digging in. There is nothing like it. For now.

  • Dee DeTarsio

    I love it--what encouraging news! Reading is reading, and while I still love paper books as well, I believe I have adapted just fine--In fact I was reading a hardback book yesterday and for a split second was looking for the dictionary button to look up a word!! I still wish they would develop a hologram to broadcast what book everyone is reading on their digital device--readers want to know!

  • Saara Myrene Raappana

    I'm one of the managing editors of Cellpoems--thanks so much for the shout-out!

    Personally, while I will always love hardcopy books and journals, I'm really excited about the emergence of e-books and electronic journals (Linebreak and Verse Daily are a couple of my favorites, but as I find more and more books of poetry on my Kindle, I keep holding out hope for e-versions of many more). The world is increasingly digital, and I'm in favor of anything that gets words into the hands of readers. How silly we'd be to ignore a medium just because it's new! I'm sure many of our concerns about the proliferation of e-books are similar to the concerns people once had about the printing press (or the novel, or the comic book--all media that were once vilified as populist tripe that are now widely respected and studied).

    To respond to Laverne, I don't think we'll have to worry about lowered standards of quality and style. It's easy to differentiate the self-published, unpolished works from those that have been vetted, whether by a publishing house or by public review--in much the same way that I can easily tell the difference between, say, the New York Times' website and an angelfire site that a 12-year old made in his bedroom. And the democratization of the Internet has allowed some very clever (or at least virally funny) self-published websites to enjoy a much larger audience than the analog world would allow. I think that will be the case with e-publishing too--the unpolished, unready stuff will exist, but most readers will ignore it in favor of high quality work.

  • Evelyn N. Alfred

    I prefer print, but I do have a Nook that I use mostly when I travel, or when I come across a hardback that's too expensive.

  • Laverne H. Bardy

    I hate that I’m unable to be thrilled about this prospect, because I definitely have mixed feelings. The really great part is obvious: Writers will now be able to get their words out to a large audience faster than if they had to go through traditional publishing routes but I see two negatives: 1) Quality in style and context may suffer as new writers, whose work may not yet be polished enough for public viewing, rush to place their writing online. 2) If I'm understanding correctly, readers would now have the option of printing out the equivalent of a novel, or sitting at their computer to read it in its entirety.

    Please, someone, clarify and/or correct me. I love this concept but I'm not sure how it will work.

    Laverne H. Bardy
    [email protected]

  • C.D. Holmes-Miller friends--I am a publication designer and from my perspective I wrote
    exactly HOW To e-Publish! Our Amazon reviews are fantastic...please enjoy: