Unpopular Opinions

As with any group of like-minded people, prolific readers disagree on a number of very specific issues. I decided to weigh in on some of the more common threads:

  • E-books: I do not own an e-reader, and I have no plans to get one. My issue isn’t with needing to feel the texture of the pages or inhale the distinctive smell of paper books, but rather a couple things that are a bit more practical. First, I am extremely hard on things, and an e-reader would probably not last long in my hands. If you have a paperback book in your backpack, it’s no big deal if you accidentally step on it. An e-reader would not fare so well unless you’d purchased an expensive case for it (as I did with my iPhone). Also, as it is an electrical device, I would surely forget to charge it (or replace the battery; I don’t know what’s required). Most of them have wi-fi, meaning I would not be able to take them to work (and I do so enjoy reading during lunch). And most importantly, I wouldn’t read as great a variety of books because I would no longer be able to swap with friends so easily.
  • Audiobooks: I am a huge fan of audiobooks (obviously, if you read this blog at all), and I find them absolutely essential to my daily commute. I also consider them the same as having read a book, as long as they’re not abridged.
  • Read by the author: This notice on any audiobook makes me leery. It’s often used as a selling point, under the assumption that authors know best what their characters are supposed to sound like and what inflection was meant in their sentences. This is certainly true, but very few authors are any good at voice-acting. Writers who can also read well are a rarity, and in fact Neil Gaiman is the only one that comes to mind. (Stephen King and Amy Tan, for example, are talented writers but poor readers.) Give me a talented narrator over a well-intentioned but monotone author any day.
  • Adults reading children’s books: I honestly have been surprised at the often vehemently espoused opinion that adults should not be reading children’s books and that this practice is irritating to other adults. There are plenty of books marketed to children that are quite worth reading as an adult, particularly those geared toward teenagers. With fiction, I’ve noticed that the age of the main character usually dictates its audience, but I’m not sure how being older than a character makes that character’s story somehow unsuitable. Likewise with the assumption that all adult books are somehow inherently superior. Should I be reading some crappy romance novel instead of The Hunger Games or Lord of the Flies just because one is marketed to adults and the others are not? This, of course, is ignoring how utterly ridiculous it is to become emotionally involved in other people’s reading preferences in the first place. It’s not like I can have the volume turned up too high when I’m reading silently to myself.
  • Fan-fiction: Most of the authors I have encountered who oppose fan-fiction are simply fiercely protective of their inventions. And I can understand that. Those who claim fan-fiction writers are costing them sales simply baffle me. Perhaps someone else can explain it better, but my view on fan-fiction is that the only people reading and writing it are those folks who simply cannot get enough of the source material – which implies they’ve already purchased it. I freely admit that I neither write nor read fan-fiction as a general rule, not because I have any moral issues against it, but rather because there’s so much else out there I want to read. That, and there aren’t any fictional worlds I feel a need to have more of than there already is. If I did, I’d probably just write it myself, for my own enjoyment. If I were a novelist I expect I would be flattered by fan-fiction, though for legal reasons I wouldn’t read any of it. I wouldn’t want anyone accusing me of stealing their ideas about my own characters.

Admittedly, I pulled these topics out of the air because I didn’t have a post scheduled for today.  But maybe we can start a conversation.

What do you think?

  1. Oh, this one didn’t get tweeted so I missed it! I am perpetually tempted by e-readers, but I don’t read enough to justify the cost of one (and I don’t think I would read substantially more if I got one). I also love used book stores and get a lot of my books secondhand anyway. Kind of like with music, my book collection is idiosyncratic partially because the availability of secondhand books dictates a lot of its content. And I like it that way – there are so many options that are good, that choosing completely on your own can be paralyzing. Having the options reduced for me is sometimes the difference between getting something pretty good and just never getting anything at all.

    I know people who don’t count audiobooks the same as reading the book because you’re doing something else and hence distracted, don’t go back and reread sentences that you didn’t get everything out of the first time, etc. I wonder, though, how intense they must be as readers to not do that with paper books, even though they presumably aren’t doing anything else at the same time. I know I’ve read entire pages and thought, oh man, what just happened? And sometimes I go back and sometimes I don’t.

    As for adults reading children’s books, should I not read any book with an 80-something protagonist? The age gap with me is even greater there than if I read Ramona Quimby, Age 8, but no one is suggesting I shouldn’t read novels about elderly people. It is a little creepy when 40-something women lust after Jacob and Edward, and similar things, but that’s a separate issue from just reading books aimed at a different generation from yours.

    And yeah, to conclude my “I agree with you!” comment, sales are only cost when a product not from the author competes with a product from the author, but I would guess that if Katniss shows up in a Harry Potter fanfic, to pick some names out of a hat, the result is people who haven’t read Hunger Games saying “that character is awesome! gimme more!” and buying Hunger Games. I can understand being protective of your characters, but I also think basically everyone who reads fanfic knows what they’re getting into and knows these aren’t canon characterizations. I mean, maybe I’m naive in that way. Not to say I think it’s wrong for an author to object on those grounds, but you have to let go eventually, even if it’s not until the copyright expires.

    • My Twitter has been pretty spotty lately for some reason, and I don’t always remember to manually tweet the new posts.

      I love used bookstores and BookCrossing meetups for that same reason: the more limited selection can sometimes reveal gems that you wouldn’t otherwise notice in a sea of a million options.

      I have found my commute to be anything but a distraction. I’m not moving fast enough to get distracted. :) I do, however, always turn off my audiobook if I need to navigate an unfamiliar place or look for a house number or parking spot.

  2. On the topic of e-readers, a Kindle seems pretty durable. I wouldn’t step on one, but it can handle the jumble of a backpack. A case would help a bit to keep it from getting too scratched up. They’re cheap enough (e.g. the low end Kindle) not to have to worry. Yes, WiFi, but you only need WiFi to download books to it. Mine is off most of the time, saves on battery. Battery life is very good (weeks), though that could lead you to forget to charge it and be surprised one day. Pretty decent selection, and I can borrow library books on it from the New York Public Library. There is a limited way to loan books to friends, though I haven’t played with it. Has the ability to read books aloud to you with a computerized voice (I don’t use this), as well as (I believe) play audiobooks.

    I mainly got one because I have no room left for books, and the small form factor is perfect for the commute.

    • I am very hard on things. I cannot stress this enough. I got an OtterBox case for my iPhone that was more expensive than the phone, and still managed to crack it somehow.

      And I can’t have anything that has WiFi capability at work, even if I can turn it off. It’d have to stay in my car, which kind of defeats the purpose.

  3. I have made up my mind to get an e-reader of some sort. I’m waffling between the cheap Kindle, a Kindle Fire 2, or mini-ipad. I don’t buy new books unless they are craft or reference. The cheap me can’t justify spending $10 for something I might finish in a few hours. I read library books and I buy books at yard sales. The problem is that our library has had such budget cuts that there just isn’t that much to choose from anymore. With the day care, it’s very rare for me to get a chance to go to yard sales any more, so my reading is taking a hit. The nearest used book store is 35 miles away, and again-daycare-confined to the house, etc.

    My library doesn’t let you borrow e-books, but I think I can get a card from the next town over, and they belong to Overdrive (I think that’s what it’s called.) And, I’ve made up my mind not to be as cheap. Of course, all of this is subject to change when it comes to actually spending money. It’s all theoretical right now.

    I don’t do audio books. I’m not a good listener, and honestly, the story or the writing isn’t why I read. I read for words. I can read a crummy romance novel or a cereal label with the same joy as Shakespeare or Steinbeck. I just need to see words.

    I love kids books. I’ve been finding a few vintage kids books for Kindle online for free. I don’t care if I’m judged for it. ;-)

    I don’t know much about fan-fiction.

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