by Raymond M. Coulombe
Hop aboard the wayback machine to a time before e-books. Let’s go back to the days when a book meant letters printed on paper and bound into a neat package. One of the things I hated was the constant need for publishers to turn every successful book into a serial. Sequels became trilogies. “Trilogies” started to have have five or six books.
In principle, there’s nothing wrong with serials. The problem is that the quality often suffered. Picture this. A writer works for years to develop his masterwork. It’s a success. Then the publisher wants sequels every four months or so. They lock the writer in a basement somewhere and force him to churn out product. Those books could not be anywhere near as good as the original labor of love. Of course, there are exceptions, but too often the later books turned stale and formulaic.
So here I am, spending months traveling on the road. Space is limited in my van down by the river. With that in mind, I read a lot of e-books. Strangely enough, a lot of those books are part of long series. Not only don’t I mind, I’ve started to enjoy long serials.
So what has changed? One of the big factors is Kindle Unlimited. When you are getting a huge selection of books for a small monthly fee, you don’t mind so much if the sequels are not all fine masterpieces. They may be good enough to keep you entertained, or if they aren’t just load up a different book and delete the offending one. It’s not like you spent a small fortune on a hardcover book.
Another thing that changed is people’s expectations. Readers and writers now go into this expecting a good book to have a lot of follow up books. I call it the Nexflix Binge Effect. Thanks to Netflix, we expect to be able to consume a whole series in a short period of time. Now we can do that with books. Just like with a Netflix TV show, it’s easy to click onto the next installment.
A good writer can use that to their advantage. They can plan stories with huge arcs and multiple subplots. Thanks to e-publishing, they know their vision will see the light of day. When you had to rely on big publishing houses, all your effort had to go into that one book in hopes it would be printed and distributed.
It’s a new world out there, and it’s changed the way I read books.