I’m in ur books, readin’ ur proz.
I read an article recently about romance novels (The Last Great Bastion Of Underground Writing) and their position not just as feminist documents but also as symbols of the gender divide. I didn’t agree with everything the writer said (she seems a little shy on the subject of enjoying erotica and accepting kink) but she made the point that e-readers are a real gift to people who like to read romance novels but are ashamed of the stigma attached. She linked to an article in the Guardian (Romantic Fiction’s Passion For Ebooks) which also explored the e-reader romance:
The rising tide of e-reading devices – and their subsequent drop in price – has been a blessing to many, but perhaps none more so than fans of romance. No longer are they forced to conceal the covers of their latest purchases (The Sultan’s Choice, say, or The Temp and the Tycoon) from fellow commuters. Instead, they can follow their heroine’s romantic adventures with impunity, safely protected by the anonymity of their e-readers.
“One of the many reasons why we believe romance readers have taken so quickly to ebooks is that there is an inherent snobbery towards romance as a genre in the UK,” says [Ebury editorial director Gillian] Green. “It’s sad that this is the case but dedicated e-readers and tablets allow readers to read whatever they like in public without giving anything away about what they are reading.”
I don’t read romance novels for preference, but I’m not going to say I’ve never read any; sometimes they’ve been sent to me for review, and when I worked in a bookstore in high school most of the second-hand books being brought in for resale were romance novels. Reading the backs of the books was a good way to make shelving them much more interesting, and a couple sucked me in. A well-written romance novel is nothing to be ashamed of.
(AND YET. Did I read them in public? Oh hell no.)
At any rate, I know the above quote to be true because I am a snoop. Not amongst friends; there’s a bond of trust there that I wouldn’t violate — though let’s be fair, it’s not like I’m not still curious, I’m just exercising self-control. But among strangers I snoop all the time, because I suffer from the delusion that somehow I don’t do anything the way “real, normal people” do things. I know it’s a delusion — the idea of ‘normal’ is a shaky one if it exists at all — but I can’t stop feeling that if I watch other people being normal for long enough, I will figure out how to be normal myself.
One of the things I do a lot of is read other peoples’ ebooks on the train. It’s easiest to do when it’s crowded, but I’ve mastered the technique of appearing to read my own book while actually reading the ebook of the person next to me. Being fair, I used to do this when the person next to me was reading a paper book, too, it’s not like I’m targeting ebook readers. It’s just that I appear to be one of about five people left in this city who reads paper books on trains. And even I don’t always do that anymore; my netbook has a tablet feature, which is how I read the article about romance novels to begin with.
And I’m here to tell you, having read hundreds of three-to-four page excerpts from other peoples’ books, they fall broadly into a few categories: romance novels, spy thrillers, what appears to be literary fiction (it’s harder to tell with litfic) and truly awful inspirational nonfiction*.
Apparently the key to ebook success is to write something that satisfies the Id in a deep, penetrating way (oh yes I went there) and to be unashamed because everyone’s ripping the metaphorical covers off it anyway.
Seriously, I’m tempted to write a romance novel. They’re taking off in a big way.
* I don’t want to denigrate anyone’s path to inner peace, but I am going to anyway, because holy crap. I want to tell some of these people to read a romance novel instead. They’d get more useful content. And if they’re lucky, a little porn!