What Makes a Good Ebook?
Ask anyone that question, and they’ll probably give you an answer based on plot, characters, flow, grammar, or presentation. Each reader will expect to read, in their view, a perfect ebook, and this is where the problem of defining whether it’s good or not, lies. The book loving population is huge. Each reader is different from another, all of them unique, and everyone with their own distinct view of what makes a good book. I believe, the perceived quality of a book depends just as much on the perceptions of the reader as on the prowess of the author.
The Perceptions of the Reader
There are many things readers like or dislike about ebooks, and these tastes are also transient. What someone likes in one book, they may hate in another. What they abhorred last year they may love now. Tastes are so varied they are impossible to pin down. How book enthusiasts view their reading matter is also related to their knowledge. Someone who’s studied grammar and literature will be less tolerant of errors than those with only a little knowledge of these subjects. Those who don’t know the intricacies of grammar are likely to ignore punctuation mistakes, occasional word misuse, or typos.
The Prowess of the Author
There are clearly huge differences between ebooks produced by established authors, with their team of support professionals, and those publications marketed by first time writers. The new authors will often try to do the editing, proofreading, and the cover design themselves. Even though they might have a fantastic story to tell, it’s almost impossible to produce an error free book without the help of a copy editor or proofreader, yet it’s necessary if funding is not there.
I think the main reasons there are complaints about the standard of some ebooks is because first time writers are competing for the same readership as accomplished authors. There is nothing on the outside of the ebook to distinguish whether the book is from a novice or a professional. Someone buying an ebook and then finding it has errors will be disappointed, and this can lead to bad reviews. Poor reviews discourage writers who are only just learning the ropes. If new writers are discouraged from the start, there would soon be a shortage of authors.
Novice writers producing their first book shouldn’t be expected to produce the same standard of excellence as the author who’s had the experience of writing many books. Think how we treat learner drivers with respect and care, how we make allowances for them when they are navigating our busy roads. They’re not expected to have advanced driving skills. Why can’t the same privileges and courtesy be shown to aspiring writers?
A Possible Solution
I would suggest presenting the work of new authors on a different platform than the one used by established wordsmiths. If an alternative sales point cannot be achieved, labelling them as ‘Self-Edited’, ‘Debut Book’ or something else might be helpful, to show the more discerning readers it is likely to fall below their standards, and they should avoid it. This would save them both money and frustration, and help amateur writers reach their less selective readers, those who value new writers for their originality. Surely an arrangement along these lines isn’t too hard to organise?
Price could also be a quality guide to ebooks. A bar of say £1.99 could be set, where ebooks of experienced authors are above it, and ebooks of first time authors are on, or below it.
I think these simple steps would take the guesswork out of purchasing an ebook, helpful for buyers and authors alike. What do you think? I’d love to hear your views on this.