Monday, December 13, 2010

Technology

by Kathleen Ernst

Back in October, I had two launch parties to celebrate the release of Old World Murder.  One took place at Old World Wisconsin, the historic site that provides the setting for the book.  I used to work there.  I’m very comfortable hanging around people wearing period clothing.

OWW Launch1

I also had a wonderful time at launch party held at Booked for Murder, a terrific independent bookstore in Madison, WI.  I signed a goodly number of books, and a good time was had by all.

LaunchPartyAmy1

One person who came had already read the book—on her electronic reader.  She brought it to the store and surreptitiously showed it to me.  “I thought you might like to see how Old World Murder looks as an eBook,” she said.  I’d never seen any of my books on an electronic reader before.

More recently, I spent two days at a book table as part of a Norwegian Christmas weekend at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa.  In addition to signing Old World Murder, I signed copies of The Runaway Friend (my only book for young readers which has a Scandinavian theme).  One mom happily bought a copy of The Runaway Friend for her daughter, and said she’d look for Old World Murder for her Kindle.

 OWM Nook

I’ve since seen what Old World Murder looks like on both the Nook and Kindle.  (The color version above is on a Nook.)  Having the ability to adjust font size has made reading possible and fun again for lots of people.  Traveling with a single well-loaded reader is much nicer than lugging ten books along.  And saving paper is a good thing.

Still, I worry about the toll eBooks take on bookstores.  And I hope that readers who enjoy downloads will still be interested in coming to book talks and programs.  For me, meeting readers in person is the most fun part of what I do!  And there will always be something magical about personally inscribing a book for someone.

Technology is catching up with me in other ways, too.  I recently participated in my first long-distance book program.  A school district in Kentucky had chosen my latest kids’ mystery, Clues in the Shadows, for their book group.  The program ended with a visit from the author—that would be me!—through the miracle of technology.  Fifty young readers and their parents gathered at a public library, and I connected with them via Skype.

I’d been asked to talk about my writing for twenty minutes, followed by another twenty minutes of Q & A.  The sound system on their end cut in and out, and the facilitator made an adjustment that meant I couldn’t hear anything from their end during my opening remarks.  I’m used to having a conversation with kids, not to talking nonstop, so it felt awkward to me.  But the kids seemed delighted.

I know that many authors have been using Skype for years to connect with book clubs and other groups.  I haven’t sought it out because I’m always worried that the technology will fritz.  Still, it’s a great way to engage with readers long distance.  I’m sure I’ll do more programs this way.

And yes, I now own an eReader.

So, how about you?  Have you embraced new technologies as a reader and/or writer?

11 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Sounds like you had a great launch party!

I've embraced technology for reading and promo--reluctantly, at first but with a growing enthusiasm. :)

Vicki Doudera said...

Technology is great but there is no substitute for the face-to-face.

That said, just think how many classrooms you can reach via Skype!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I recently downloaded books for the first time via the Kindle app on my iphone. It is definitely easier than lugging books around, especially if I find myself unexpectedly stuck somewhere waiting, like at the doctors. And I've just ordered a new computer and will be hooking up to Skype. I've been asked by several book groups if I would do Skype, so now I'll have the ability.

We will always have books, though I also worry about the bookstores with the ease of e-books. As for face-to-face with readers, I think fans of our genre will always seek us out. I've even been asked to sign both Kindle and Nook covers!

Lois Winston said...

Sounds like you had a great time, Kathleen. When my first book came out, I was invited to be part of a panel at a local Borders the day of the release. I was thrilled because the events there drew a huge crowd. There were 5 of us on the panel. Guess whose books never arrived at the store in time for the event? :-(

Anyway, as far as technology goes, once upon a time, the movie industry thought TV would destroy them. Didn't happen. People still flock to the movies, even though many of them now have 72" plasma screens with surround sound in their homes.

I don't think e-readers will kill books or bookstores, but there are problems that need addressing in order for brick and mortar stores of any sort to survive. Retail will be quite different 10 years from now. Whether it's for the better or not, who knows?

As for me, I don't have an e-reader yet. I'm holding out for the spring when the new iPad will be released, hoping it has a front-facing camera so I can use it to Skype.

Darrell James said...

Kathleen- I have always prided myself on staying current with technology. But I have yet to concede my book reading to reader devises. I suppose one day that will change for me too.

I hope meeting and speaking to readers in person will never end. It's the most enjoyable part of being a writer.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Lois - No books for the launch event? Ouch.

Sue Ann - I'm still getting used to the idea of reading a book on a reader--can't imagine doing it on a phone! But phones are so small and lightweight that I can see the benefit. A book is always at hand.

Elizabeth and Vicki - I think that's the bottom line: there is no substitute for face-to-face, but technology is becoming an increasing part of our world, and we might as well try to adapt!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Darrell - since meeting readers in person is one of the best parts about being a writer, I have to believe that readers will always enjoy meeting writers in person. I know I still love getting to chat with or listen to authors I admire! The challenge may be to let readers who prefer eBooks know that they are still warmly welcomed at events.

Jessie Chandler said...

I think it'll be interesting to see how bookstores who have the ability (the indies) embrace Google's bookstore. I'm not clear on the ins and outs, but it at least allows the bookstore to offer ebooks and I think get a cut of the sale. The technology is here, and it will only improve...but I think there will always be a place for the printed book no matter what. I guess it'll just all depend on how the brick and mortars find ways to adapt, if they can.

Julia Buckley said...

I asked for a Kindle for Christmas.

Carol Grace said...

Kathleen,
What a lot of promo you've been doing and having a good time too! I too belong to the Sons of Norway (Lodge 007 in San Francisco)thanks to my husband's grandmother. I'm still reading books the old-fashioned way but maybe I'll get a Nook for Christmas if I'm very good and drop enough hints.

Kathleen Ernst said...

I hope that all of you who are wishing for an eReader find one wrapped up just for you this season! And I hope we all can browse through well-stocked and financially thriving bookstores for many years to come.