Looking for a good book

WHERE TO find a good book these days? This is not an idle question, since one considers the unstoppable and undeniable ascendency of the e-book and digital publishing so reminiscent of a tsunami’s crashing waves that have so drowned the edifice of the traditional publishing industry while uplifting smaller presses and houses like boats to navigate the new tidal paths. In this environment, there is a profusion of books that are as innumerable, it seems, as pixels on a screen, but that have originated from just as many sources, from tried and true classics that are freely available for download, yet may have been poorly edited or otherwise converted to a digital format with mistakes in the body of the text itself.

Likewise any larval would-be author with a little spare time, the ability to string two words together and access to an Amazon account may now upload their respective magnum opuses online and sell them as easily as any commodity direct to the consumer.

The debate over indie vs. traditional publishing has waxed and waned with both sides offering their arguments and opinions. There are some who see virtue in the old-style publishing process, including the role of gatekeepers in ensuring quality and the extensive editing and marketing offered to promote authors. Meanwhile, those who have taken the indie route extol the ability of writers to place their work directly before readers and seek out their own audiences. The quality control of gatekeepers, they argue, can often morph into an ideological checklist while the editing they offer has lessened in quality and the individual writers are more and more often expected to take on their own duties in marketing their work anyway.

They also point to several runaway bestsellers and incredible success stories of authors who have gotten their start on the indie route but who have gone on to success, a few to the point where they are practically household names.

Which leads back to the question of where to find the books worth reading, since the plethora of new releases and the democratization of e-publishing means there are far more books out there than can possibly be read in a single lifetime.

In this, readers are best served by looking to the most qualified opinions: that of fellow readers, both reviewers by trade and those readers who post their opinions on sites such as Amazon.com. It is for this reason that I am in favor of readers taking the time to write their impression of a book they have enjoyed. After spending time immersed in an author’s hard-written prose, one means of saying “thank you” would be taking a little more time to pen a review.

The process has become simplified and streamlined thanks to the technological innovations of the e-book, to the point that upon completing a digital book I am prompted to write a review and share my thoughts, rating and recommendation.

I happen to be a longtime reader of reviews and an occasional writer. I have since become a more frequent writer and a more discerning reader of reviews. We are in an age when word of mouth is vital to the success of an author in promoting their work, and for that process to have its full effect it becomes necessary to do more than type a few hasty and generalized lines about how great a recent read is. Here the discerning part kicks in, because a book is judged not only by the number of reviews it garners, but by the detail of those reviews. As I finish a book, I find I am now mentally composing my review, attempting to highlight what I most enjoyed to attract like-minded readers, while also being careful not to give away the story. It takes practice, but it’s also fun, and illustrates the interactive relationship between readers and writers in a vibrant fan base.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com.