Technology and Books

By Allison Brennan


I broke down and bought an iPad.

I had planned to wait until HP came out with their version of a multi-purpose device because I’d seen a demo a few months ago and thought it looked cool. I thought I’d be a smart shopper and weigh the pros and cons of each. (Dedicated e-readers were already off the table because I wasn’t looking for a device only to read e-books and newspapers.)

Except, I have everything Mac and I really wanted the iPad.

There were two primary reasons I bought the iPad. First, I don’t have to get the iPhone because the iPad does everything else act as a telephone. I’m happy with Verizon, I really didn’t want to switch to AT&T, and why spend the money on a new phone when I really only talk to and text my kids, husband, and mom? I wanted the iPad to have a fast and easy way to check email, research, and write.

Which leads to the second primary reason:  I no longer need to lug my laptop with me on trips. I have two trips this summer (Thrillerfest and RWA) and I always write while flying. Pages, Mac’s word processing software, has an app as well. It’s basic and easy to use and readily converts to word. (I don’t write with Pages on my iMac, because I know and love Word, but for my first draft I can write on anything.)

The best thing is that the iPad recognizes Bluetooth and syncs up with a wireless keyboard (or a keyboard dock, but I already have a wireless keyboard.) I don’t much like the idea of writing a book on a touch-keyboard—I type over 100 word a minute, and I can just imagine the errors! (I wear out keyboards in about a year—I’ve had my wireless keyboard for six months and already the letters are fading. I doubt the iPad was tested by someone who writes a million-plus words a year between books, revisions, blogs, emails . . . you get the picture.)

The other night, I tested the iPad by writing the prologue for my March book. While it’ll take me a bit to get used to (after writing how many books in Word?) it’s easy and functional. And if I can get out of the habit of editing as I go (which really slows me down) I can get my first down-and-dirty draft written faster so I can spend more time revising and editing. (I suppose this is what Alex would call my outline, right?)

I downloaded a couple games . . . crossword puzzles and Flight Control. Flight Control is hugely addicting . . . I don’t recommend that anyone buy it because you won’t be able to stop playing. The other night, when I was tired and ready for bed at two a.m., I sat down and played Flight Control for an hour . . . I haven’t had this much fun since I discovered Angry Birds for my iTouch.

And of course I downloaded iBooks. I bought DUEL by Richard Matheson, a collection of short stories, because I figured I have never read a book on an e-reader and should start with short reads. I started the first story, but . . .

It’s going to take me a long, long time to read books in anything but print. I couldn’t really get lost in the story. The outside world gets in . . . when I pick up a print book, I am lost in the book. I don’t see or hear what goes on around me, I’m totally immersed in the story, as if I were truly a fly on the wall of the book.

I’ve played with most dedicated e-readers, and the iPad is definitely easy on the eyes and simulates a book with font, page turning, and appearance. The font and the font size are adjustable, and browsing the bookstore is a pleasure (I did download a bunch of sample chapters—I can see me using this to read openings to decide which books to buy  . . . in print.)

I won’t say I’ll NEVER read a book in e-format, because one of the nicest things about it is instant story—a minute or two to download a book I’m dying to read? I don’t have to wait 48 hours for shipment, or drive to the bookstore . . . but honestly, I’m not that lazy and instant gratification isn’t as pleasurable as anticipating and savoring something desirable.

Of course, it would be more of a pleasure if my books (Random House) were available through iBooks. But it’s only a matter of time. (As an aside, I’ve been reading articles where Markus Dohle, Chairman of Random House, talks about making major decisions about many things, including digital publishing. I think a cautious approach is smart—too many people, I believe, are in a semi-panic mode when I don’t think there’s any reason to fully panic about digital publishing. It’s like people think if they don’t act now, they’ll be behind . . . they want to be on the forefront of something . . . but aren’t really able to define what the “something” is. Panic can cause rash and unreasoned decisions, so while I am disappointed that my books are not available through the iBooks store, they can be bought through different apps and companies, and I do appreciate the serious contemplation as to whether the agency model is, in fact, the best model for publishing today, as well as a reasoned approach to digital publishing that will benefit the industry—both publishers and authors.)

But the coolest thing about this week isn’t my iPad, but my app—Ballantine created an iPhone app for me! I’m absolutely thrilled with it, and am looking for ways to value-add to the content. Possibly original short stories (like the ghost story available on my web page) or reader letters . . . but right now there’s already a lot on the app. My books and excerpts are there, tweets (now I really have to get into twitter . . . I much prefer Facebook) and signing up for my newsletter. It’s all great . . . I just with I had more time to work on it. If you’d like the free app, you can download it on iTunes, or here.

Any ideas are welcome . . . would you download a free app for your favorite authors? Why or why not? The app is designed to give more information and excerpts, will let readers know when a new book is available or when there’s new content. What would you want to see on an author’s app? How often would you want it updated? Only when there’s a new release or between releases?

Ultimately, no matter how fancy technology gets, no matter what happens with e-books or print books or iPhone apps or added content . . . readers read for the story. They want to be entertained. Whether to laugh or cry, be scared or contemplative or educated or simply escape for a few hours, readers read books for the story. And the story—the writing—is what us authors should spend most of our time developing.

Because without the story, none of the bells and whistles matter.

BSP: CARNAL SIN, book two of my Seven Deadly Sins series, will be released on Tuesday! So . . . download my app and read a chapter, or read here.

I also have a book trailer for the series, only 42 seconds … it’s not up on YouTube yet, but here’s a link on my website. Enjoy!

(I’m out at a Father’s Day BBQ with family in the mountains. I don’t know yet whether I’ll have Internet reception, but I’ll be back tonight if I don’t!)




13 thoughts on “Technology and Books

  1. Spencer Seidel

    Hi Allison,

    I bought an iPad for exactly the same reasons you did. I love mine (Angry Birds HD is way fun). I also won’t read on it. It feels too much to me like reading on a laptop. I much prefer a real book or my Kindle (I’m still in love with the concept of a dedicated reading appliance–call me crazy).

    I love the Notes app. I worked up all the ideas for the novel I’m writing now on it. I found, much to my delight, that using the virtual keyboard made me s-l-o-w down and helped me think more clearly about my characters and story.

    I’ll be at Thrillerfest on Sat. Looking forward to it.


  2. PK the Bookeemonster

    Congrats on the new toy, er, working device! I’ve mentioned before that I do have a Kindle and love it. I read both books and the Kindle. On the Kindle, I love being able to read samples of books that sound interesting — not everyone has excerpts available — and I love that this Tuesday I’ll get Karin Slaughter’s new release automatically without having to go anywhere ( and the following Tuesday I’ll receive Tess’s).
    I don’t believe I would download an app. I’m not of that generation — missed it by THAT much. I prefer to find that information on an author’s website. I don’t like to download a heckuva lot onto my computers unnecessarily. And mobile phone stuff? Fuggedaboudit — I’m missing that boat altogether.

  3. Alafair Burke

    I also love my iPad. (Can we get Apple to give us some iTunes credits or something for all this publicity?) I haven’t been writing on mine except to hammer out a few quick notes when I’m inspired without my laptop, but I do read on it, mostly manuscripts and academic papers. I’m also intensely addicted to watching TV on it while I’m on the treadmill. I was terrified it would go flying off the book ledge, but so far, it stays right in place.

  4. Allison Brennan

    See you there Spence! 🙂 And I hadn’t thought about the slowing down and thinking part . . .

    It was a treat to myself, Cornelia (the app was all my publisher.) I had planned on getting the iPad when I got my publication money from CARNAL SIN. But one day my car broke down (alternator) and my daughter and I were stranded at the mall (real hardship, I know) and I wandered into the Apple store, and the rest is history . . .

    Hi PK, I have several friends with Kindles and they love them and so I’ve played around with them . . . I just like a multi-purpose device, and the iPad (and future HP product) opens up the potential for multi-media add-ons for books (I don’t think e-books should be ridiculously cheaper than print books because readers are paying for the story, not the format, IMO . . . but that’s an argument for another day) But I do think that e-books should offer add-ons, sort of like the bonus material on DVDs. There is something about instant gratification in reading, except I like my favorite authors to be on my bookshelf 🙂

    Alafair, ditto here, though I haven’t watched tv on it yet (I can–I watched tv on my iTouch all the time!) What I’d really like is a Scrivener app. I think that’ll come since Scrivener is only for Mac. I’ve written a bit with it, haven’t completely gotten into it, but I think I could on the iPad for the rough drafts.

  5. Robert Gregory Browne

    I just had lunch with someone who raved about the iPad. I know Brett has one and I played with it, but wasn’t all that impressed. But now that HP’s pad seems as if it may well be vaporware, I’m thinking again about the iPad.


    And Stephen, I type 120 at the best of times, but, unfortunately, I can’t WRITE that fast. I envy Allison if she can… 😉

  6. kagey

    I don’t think I’ll ever get a Kindle or even read that much on an iPad or similar device. The iPad or a mini laptop does sound interesting because hauling my laptop around is getting to be a pain, but I also need a dedicated keyboard even in a phone — that’s why I got a Palm Pre instead of a motorola droid or iPhone.

    My issue with reading e-books is two fold — I never seem to remember the title after I’ve read it. Carrying around the book, seeing the title & cover image every time I pick it up — that makes the title stick in my brain. I have decided to go back and find books I’ve read electronically, and been unable to come up with either the author or the title. It drives me crazy.
    I also lose track of how close the end of the book is. When you have the physical book in your hand, you know when you’re getting close, but not necessarily with an ebook. I’ve gotten to the end and thought "that’s it??" because it was so unexpected. That may also be a mark of bad writing, but at least with a hard copy book, I get some sense of "half way" and "almost done".

  7. Marianne Petit

    I’m on the fence when it comes to e-readers. As an author, I look forward to holding a copy of my book in hand and I worry if I go ebook with a publisher, what do I sign at a book signing? I like signing a cover. However, I am leaning toward buying a Nook. I have to say, especially when it comes to going on a vacation, the idea of carrying one item that stores a lot of books is appealing.


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