IndieView with Indie eBook Reader Caleb Blake

Putting A Human Face on Statistics

As an indie author I am keen to get my work in front of reviewers. I’m also interested in how other authors write, and promote their books. What I am especially interested in, is what readers think. There’s a lot of buzz around readers switching to reading in a digital format – stats fly thick and fast; stats are great, but what I want to know is the person behind the stats.

I invited Caleb Blake after seeing him comment on several posts at MobileReads about Indie books to share with us some of his views on indiebooks, ereading and the like.

Indie authors there’s a special question in there which essentially allows you to “pitch” your book at Caleb 🙂 Have Fun!

How did you first hear about eBooks and eReaders?

I became aware of eReaders when Amazon put out their first Kindle. I purchased from Amazon from time to time – mainly books that I couldn’t find locally – and I saw an advertisement for the reader. Back then, it was U.S. only so not really a serious option for me in Australia.

The concept of eBooks was first made known to me through work. Various businesses have offered access to technical books via browser on a subscription basis for some years now. Additionally, technical book publishers began offering PDF versions of print books as a purchase option.

What kind of ereader do you use?

I have a Kindle 3 which I purchased late 2010 and I also sometimes use Mobipocket Reader on my mobile phone as a Kindle app was not available for it. That will change with my next phone upgrade.

Where did you first hear about indie books?

I was somewhat aware of independent technical publishing through services like Lulu for some time, but I have to confess to having my head in the sand when it comes to independent fiction writers until late 2010 when I purchased my eReader (shame on me).

What made you decide to try them?

Actually, I think it was inevitable that I’d try out independent authors as it’s completely in line with how I’ve explored other domains. With software I’ve developed a preference over time for independent and/or community-driven projects, and with music I was very happy to connect with and listen to a wide variety of independent producers.

I guess you could say I was pre-disposed to read independent authors once I became aware of them.

Is it relevant to you that Indie authors tend to promote and communicate with their readers more than trade published authors?

I do find it relevant. In other domains, I’ve really enjoyed establishing a rapport with content creators so the fact that the author is reaching out personally to his or her audience will immediately get my attention.

I’m going to draw a pretty awful analogy here, but I recently built a new house and in my kitchen I have a large island bench, wide enough so that people can sit at the bench while dinner is being prepared. One night, I had a dinner party, and a guest commented that she liked being able to sit at the bench because it made her feel like she was included, that she was part of cooking process.

Being engaged personally by the author helps me feel less like a consumer of commercial fiction and more like a participant in and contributor to an ongoing art form.

Is “connecting” with the author important to you, or is the only thing that matters, the book?

Once I’m reading a book, all that matters to me is the story. Connection with the author is important to me in other ways I’ve already mentioned. However, in the end, the words on paper — virtual or otherwise — are going to be key.

It’s great to share my thoughts about the book with the author after I’ve finished though.

Do you read reviews or download samples before you buy?

I tend not to read samples for some reason. I seldom read anything more than blurbs for paper fiction, so haven’t really adopted the process of reading samples for eBooks.

I read reviews for books from authors that I’m not familiar with and I pay attention to discussions on a particular book in forums such as MobileRead. However, once I’m familiar with an author and enjoy his/her work, all I really need is the blurb.

There are even some trade published authors from whom I don’t even particularly need a blurb to make my decision. I don’t think it will be long before I’ll be able to say the same thing about a few independent authors.

Do you still buy print books?

Absolutely. I continue to buy print books in the cases where the book is either not in eBook form at all, or is geographically restricted.

Would I prefer to purchase only eBooks? Yes, I would. If the books were available in an electronic non-PDF form, I would prefer to purchase it in that form.

Where do you buy or get the eBooks that you read? (i.e. Smashwords, Amazon etc)

I mainly purchase from Amazon and Smashwords at the moment. Although I do have a very extensive list of eBook sellers in my browser’s favourite list, I find that the majority of books that I become interested in are freely available in either Amazon or Smashwords. Of course, these preferences are subject to change without notice.

What type of book would you like to see on your ereader next week? An indie book you haven’t read yet, but would like to?

I tend to dwell mainly in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres, but I also read quite a bit of general fiction as well. My reading list includes at least 50% indie authors that I’ve purchased over the last month or so.

What are you reading now?

At the moment I’m doing some copy-editing for Glen Krisch’s new novel Where Darkness Dwells. I read his first novel The Nightmare Within which was a great read. After a discussion or two, Glen asked if I’d like to read his next novel as it approached publication. I was only too happy to oblige as I would definitely have purchased his next novel anyway.

Do you have a website or blog?

I have set myself up a GoodReads account this year mainly to document what I’ve read and what I’m reading, so I guess that is relevant: Caleb72

Are you for or against DRM?

I don’t really have much regard for DRM as I don’t believe it satisfies any of its aims, unless those aims are to deter only the least motivated criminals. I’m a pretty tech-savvy guy and I can say I’m unlikely to be prevented from circumventing such technical barriers if I felt so inclined.

So basically, the only people that end up being frustrated by DRM are the people who never intended to engage in major criminal activity in the first place. To me, it’s a shame when the only real inconvenience is felt by customers who have no intention breaking the law.

Are there any disadvantages to reading independent authors?

I think my main issue with books produced by independent authors is the lack of professional editing. By this I don’t mean large changes to the plot to make the book more commercially viable which I’m sure can be part of the editing process for major publishing houses. By editing, I mean removing all spelling and grammar errors, fixing voicing problems, proper fact-checking, removal of unintended anachronisms and plot inconsistencies and so on.

Much of this can and should be done by the author, but I feel that the author would benefit from including an independent person or persons in the process. Even having a trusted group of “beta” readers can be helpful in picking up errors before publication.

End of Interview

Thank you Caleb for sharing this information. I hope we’ll see a few comments from Indie authors, and some recommendations for you.

6 responses to “IndieView with Indie eBook Reader Caleb Blake

  1. Thanks for sharing, Caleb. It’s nice to get a reader’s perspective.

  2. Great interview! I really appreciate hearing a reader’s perspective. And I definitely agree about the DRM; it only inconveniences the honest people.

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  4. Thanks. I appreciate hearing from a reader.

  5. Thanks for sharing your views. It’s useful to hear from a reader (and an Oz one at that).

  6. “Once I’m reading a book, all that matters to me is the story.” Couldn’t agree more.

    Thanks for sharing, Caleb.