Ho ho ho, I say.
Okay, perhaps I don’t say it out loud, sober, but in my head I do. The point is that it’s Xmas, and that means I’m going to take a break from writing. Not voluntarily, and no, it had nothing to do with a restraining order or anyone in my neighborhood disappearing. Don’t go all McAfee on me. No, it has more to do with eye fatigue and needing to get out and about after 18 solid months of sitting around, writing for 12 hours a day. Sometimes more. That may be good for one’s writing career, but it ain’t so good for one’s physiology, so I’m forcing myself to take a month or so off.
Which brings me to reading. I’m now able to catch up on my backlog, which is embarrassingly large. I’m reading Lawrence Block’s new one (which I’m enjoying no end) and then RS Guthrie’s soon-to-be-released follow up to Blood Land, appropriately titled Money Land. After that, I will be plowing through the roughly 60 books I’ve been sent or downloaded or been asked to read. Chances are slim I’ll get to them all. Probably more like a few dozen, but for me, that’s progress.
One of the things that I find consistently amazing as I read is how great the kindle is. Wow. I mean, I’m used to reading on a computer screen, and it sort of sucks after a while. But the kindle just rocks. What a great innovation by a company that continues to lead the pack in ebook technology, in my opinion – Amazon knew what it was doing, and still does.
That being the case, what does the future hold for readers? Will the iPad upset Amazon’s ruling the roost with the kindle? Will Amazon have to come out with an iPad killer to keep growing? Or will the kindle drop to $49.95 soon? I hope both. The more ereaders in peoples’ hands, the better, not just from my own grubby self-interested standpoint as an author, but also as a world citizen. A literate population is one for which I have more hope than an illiterate one. If the kindle, or iPad, or whatever, can turn the tide of rising functional illiteracy that’s been the legacy of the TV culture, then I’m all for it.
I believe that TV dumbs you down, and one of the things I’m thankful for as a child is that I didn’t ever get into TV – mostly because I was locked in a basement, chained to the wall, but that’s another story. My point is that reading gave me the means to educate myself (ultimately on the corrosive effects of some household chemicals on chain links, to my considerable relief) and learn to reason, rather than staring dully at entertainment presented to me with no thinking required.
And of course, it also means that readers will grow in numbers, which hopefully will translate into a more discerning audience, which as it is exposed to more advanced sorts of reading material, will begin to appreciate books that aren’t written at a second grade level – which is where I come in. Hopefully. All hopefully.
Instead of going off on a mean-spirited rant about the current state of the market, and what the biggest selling novels being some of the most puerile crap I’ve ever read says about us as a civilization, I think I’ll just wish everyone happy holidays, and suggest with a nod and a wink that nothing says Merry Christmas like some Russell Blake books, unless you’re planning on showing up with a bottle of tequila wearing nothing but a Santa hat and some mistletoe. And I’m willing to forgo the mistletoe, to be truthful. Never mind. This is getting off track again.
I think my point is that as both readers and authors, these are the best of times. Readers now have a universe of reasonably-priced material to choose from, and authors have the ability to price their offerings to reach the maximum possible readership while retaining a decent profit. That’s sort of a first during my lifetime. I say we all enjoy it and hope it continues. Because we’ve seen the alternative, and it kind of sucks – high-priced novels of marginal quality by only a handful of names, with virtually no interest within the publishing industry of finding and nurturing new talents – the Ludlums and Cusslers and Forsyths of tomorrow – and with the vast majority of the profit sticking to the middlemen instead of the author.
Amazon changed all that, for which I think we, as authors and readers, owe a lot. For what it’s worth, I buy all my ebooks via Amazon for that reason, as well as because I haven’t gotten the hang of how to get Smashwords to send stuff to my kindle in a click.
So what is the takeaway from all this? Have a happy, happy holiday season, avoid clowns as they’re all alcoholic pedophile cannibals, and buy my crap so you can sneer at your acquaintances when they ask you what you’re reading, and you can smugly respond, “Russell Blake! Oh, you haven’t heard of him? Hmm. I suppose you don’t get much chance to keep current on things, do you?” I imagine a hint of arrogance as you say it, the mistletoe shaking ever so subtly, keeping silent time to the swinging of the Santa hat’s jolly faux-snowball as you sashay to my front porch with the bottle of Cuervo.
Hey. It’s my fantasy. Just let me have that, okay? Don’t be a hater. It’s Christmas, after all.