This is probably going to be a fairly short post, as Dr Biren -- our Island GP -- has just done a house-call to check that I'm behaving myself. Which I suspect doesn't include sitting here and typing. I won't tell if you don't. My sense of humor is just a little less present than usual. Tickle yourself for the obligatory chuckle.
I've just read my first book on an e-reader. As you all know I am an enthusiastic supporter of e-books. I've read on screen for many years now... and never really figured why people found it awkward or difficult.
I think I understand now.
Barbara loves the e-reader, and has always struggled to read on a computer screen. The difference between us is quite simple. B is a relatively fast reader, and can perhaps finish a book in a 4-6 hour sitting. I am a very fast reader. A normal 400 page novel will take me 2 hours or less. I'll persevere, but honestly the e-reader was not very pleasant, because there is relatively little text to a page, and I was changing pages every 8 seconds, which I found an irritation. So: as e-readers are intended for overconsumers (and I am an extreme example, I grant) for me they'd need a very much bigger screen.
Which brings me to ask: are there different formats (not fonts or line spaces, but structural format) and requirements for ideally presenting a story to e-book consumers that are different to the requirements of a paper-book?
I suspect ideally e-books need to be shorter, and possibly more modular. Eric Flint is a good eg. of an excellent modular writer. Although his books fit together well as units, they're made up of a sequence of modules, each of which stands on its own to some extent, and one can take out and replace with slightly different scene, ending in more or less the same point, without damaging the overall story line. I am not a good modular writer, as there is a lot more interweave and foreshadowing in my work (I am not a pantster, I know where a book is going and build toward that) - with the book being the smallest unit. This means I am a lot harder to read -- as people often do read with e-readers -- in snatches.
I'm also of the opinion that the current length of books is more to do with economics than ideal reads. A book after all is as long as it needs to be. There is usually a relationship between the number of major characters and its length (this differs from writer to writer as some writers devolop characters more and some of us are more wordy than others.) A short story is very difficult setting to adequately develop a complex set of characters or a complex story line or world-building. Of course some authors do this, it's just hard. This is why I believe that writing shorts (even if you can't sell them) is the best possible training for writers.
But I believe there is a market and space for the Novella and Novelette again, especially if priced appropriately. Of course we are now in a situation where cover art becomes a serious part of the cost.
And BTW don't forget to check out http://www.nakedreader.com/ - they have some great books and stories. Some even free - if you look in at the right time.