As a best-selling author, a question I get is “which books should I buy/give for my/his/her new Kindle? Or Nook? Or other ereader?” Actually, there is a more specific answer beyond “books that you/he/she love,” which is an impeccable answer. Love cookbooks? Yankee fan? Problem solved. But there are other considerations, especially for novels.
First, the ereader’s genius is portability. Your library travels with you while you wait for the subway, or in the parking lot for the kids. But that also means that the best novels for ereaders are digestible even when taken in McNugget-sized bites. Long chapters, complex theses, and vast multicharacter sagas may be difficult to bite off and chew. War and Peace is best absorbed a couple of uninterrupted hours at a time. And a bit of contemporary humor helps. I don’t know about you, but John Milton’s never made me snort milk out of my nose.
A second consideration is cost. Whatever tangible sizzle a doorstop-thick, autographed, dust-jacketed hardcover offers compared to a pocket-sized paperback vanishes on an ereader. Booksellers do make some hot titles and authors available as ebooks at mass market paperback prices. But an ebook that is, or was originally, released as a $30 hardback often lists for two or three times the price of a book that is, or especially was originally, released as a $7.99 mass market paperback, even though both are popular.
Another thing about price. Much of the world’s greatest fiction is in the public domain, and available free or nearly free for ereader. Sadly, few of us care to digest Milton in the Bounce House parking lot, at any price. And today virtually anyone can list his/her “novel” on Amazon, so free or $.99 download books often deliver what you pay for. Milton John’s Zombie Santa may prove less artistically satisfying than John Milton’s Paradise Lost, even if the title and first page sample are cute, and Milt’s mom, writing as “Knowledgeable Critic,” gave his book five Amazon stars. Indicators that a book is worth downloading: best-selling history, of the book or of its author; good reviews from credible sources, the fact that editors at a major publisher found it worth printing, and, yes, an actual price tag.
Another consideration: For ereaders, the next book in the series, or the next book by the author, is a click away. So, if you love the first book, is there more where that came from? Or was the novelist a one hit wonder?
Specific suggestions? Sure. Unsurprisingly, the works of the author of this post just happen to be great choices for ereader downloads, if you or someone on your list likes science fiction, dark humor, or just a good, fast story with engaging characters and relevance to current events.
Orphanage, my first novel, for example, races along in three-page chapters, and is told in the accessible voice of a reluctant enlistee in a near-future war. My kids and my friends think he’s way funnier than I am, but they have company. Orphanage made Barnes & Nobles’ paperback top 50 in its first two weeks of release, garnered compliments from the likes of the Washington Post and Denver Post, and earned a Quill Award nomination as best SF/Fantasy/Horror novel of the year. It’s publisher’s other authors include Poe, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stephanie Meyer, and James Patterson. Orphanage was released in paperback, and so sells in ebook for a paperbacky $7.99. And its story and style soldier on for six more books if you like it. The newest, Undercurrents, is even cheaper in ebook, six bucks through its publisher, Baen distributed by Simon & Schuster.
Happy holiday reading.