Reading Resolutions for 2015

As it’s a new year, I thought I’d kick off 2015 with a few of my reading resolutions for the next twelve months…

1. Read more non-fiction books. I very rarely read non-fiction books, but I’d really like to try and change this. Currently sitting on my bookshelf are The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Kraus Project, but I’d love any more recommendations.

2. Read more classics. Again, my bookshelf and kindle library are groaning under the weight of all the books I’ve bought with good intentions and never read. Top of the list for 2015 are Anna Karenina, The Grapes of Wrath and Heart of Darkness.

3. Review more of the books I read. I’ve been a bit slow on the reviewing front recently. I’ve been reading tons of books on my kindle at the moment going to and from work on the train, but haven’t had the time to properly sit down and write down all my thoughts.

4. Try and read the books I already own. I have an entire bookcase filled with books that I’ve not read. Some of them have been sat there for years. But still I keep finding myself buying new books, both in hard copy and on my kindle. I’m rapidly running out of space – so something’s got to give!

5. Lots of people seem to be setting reading targets for 2015, aiming to read more than they’ve managed to get through in 2014. Mine is actually the opposite. My final resolution is to stop reading so many quick reads in my favourite genres, and try and focus on some more challenging, and probably more time consuming reads.

Reading between the lines

Since their introduction, e-Readers have exploded in popularity. Their ability to allow avid readers to carry an entire library of books in one simple, lightweight device marked the beginning of a reading revolution and changed the shape of the publishing industry beyond recognition. But while sales of eBooks continue to go through the roof, sales of e-Readers themselves have waned over recent months as other electronic device compete for their own share of the market.

In particular, I’m talking about tablets. Figures from the Ipsos MediaCT Technology Tracker show that in the Christmas sales race, tablets won hands down. In the last quarter alone, tablet ownership doubled to 25%, meaning that statistically, one in four households owns one. By marked contract, e-Readers saw an increase of just 1% over the same period.

To me, this comes as no great surprise. Yes, e-Readers have their advantages for readers – a glare free screen makes reading easier on the eye, and even the most advanced Kindle is still distinctly cheaper than Apple’s cheapest iPad – but if you’re going to invest in something, it should be in something that can offer everything that we’ve come to expect from modern technology.

That’s where a tablet can really shine. It’s a camera, music player, browser, e-Reader, games console and even a SatNav all rolled into one. in a second, anyone with an iPad and access to the internet can download app’s from all of the major players in the reader market, from Kindle to Kobo to Nook, while any apple device also offers access to the iBookstore. Put simply, a tablet, or even a smartphone, means that you’re not just limited to just one platform. The amount of choice on offer is limitless.

You could argue that the latest Kindle model is actually more of a tablet than a traditional e-reader. It’s no longer an e-ink reader, having abandoned this in favour of a LCD screen, and it’s clearly trying to re-position itself in the market and compete with the likes of tablet giants such as Apple or Samsung. That said, I’m sure there are plenty of users out there who choose a Kindle specifically because it’s better to read on. And is Amazon’s attempt to revolutionise the traditional e-Reader reaching a new audience, or alienating the old one?

The rise of self-publishing

The advent of epublishing platforms and the ability for authors to self-publish their work without going through traditional publishing avenues has opened up a whole realm of new possibilities. The success of authors such as Amanda Hocking make it clear that this route is one that has the potential to deliver substantial returns – even the hugely successful Fifty Shades of Grey started life as online fan fiction.

There are now hundreds of thousands of free ebooks available on Amazon’s Kindle store, and according to a recent survey by Bowker Market Research’s Book and Consumers UK survey, self-published books accounted for around 11% of all ebooks purchased by UK consumers in the first half of 2012. But with so many authors choosing to go down this route, what does it take for a book to stand out from the crowd? And how much difference does the lack of input from professional editors, readers and designers really make?

Paul PilkingtonTo see for myself, I recently read a book by Paul Pilkington, an independently published suspense mystery writer. Paul’s first novel, The One You Love, was made available on the Kindle store in July 2011 (see here). As of 30th January 2013, the book is number one on Amazon’s free download chart and has generated over 800 reviews on the site, many of them positive.

The One You Love revolves around Emma Holden, who comes with a troubled past and emotional baggage to boot. Two weeks before her wedding, her finance, Dan, has disappeared leaving a trail of suspicion and lies in his wake. Fast paced and action packed, this book raced along to a dramatic conclusion with plenty of twists and cliff-hangers along the way. It was interesting, well thought out and I didn’t have a clue who was behind the chain of increasingly mysterious events until the very end!

I do, however, have a few criticisms. There were a lot of central characters and I think one or two could have been cut back to minor parts without taking too much away from the story. While these characters were useful in illustrating potential avenues for the plot, the central thread of the story could have been more cohesive.

This book was all about the action, which I liked, but I would have preferred to have a bit more of a back story on the characters and their relationships with each other. In particular, Emma’s relationships with the men in the book were not examined in great detail and the reader is left to take things entirely at face value. There were also a couple of loose ends that I felt could have done with being tied up.

There’s no doubt that I enjoyed The One You Love – I read it in its entirety in just one sitting. However, the input of a publishing house would probably have helped to iron out the issues highlighted above and to turn a reasonably good book into a great one. Since it’s release, this book has been hovering steadily at the top of the download charts, but put it – in its current form – into the paid category at the same price point as books like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and I don’t think it would perform anywhere near as well.

Having said that, the success of ebooks like this just goes to show that if people have a story to tell, they should put themselves out there and tell it. Self-publishing has real potential to give authors an opportunity to break into the industry and I’ll definitely be looking to read more independently published ebooks in the future.