Honey, I shrunk the books: Love and thanks from Valerie Laws xxx

Holiday reading BK: Before Kindle
Today I’m celebrating the selfless, though arduous, spreading of glorious stories, specifically in the world of ebooks. One of the joys and benefits of e-readers is they can hold a shedload of books without breaking your back, no matter how hefty the (original) tome or how massive the oeuvre of the chosen author. Many don’t break the bank either. Most of us, when stocking our new Kindle or whatevs, after snaffling some hot new titles, check out the old faves, and discover to our delight that you can snag all the world of literature going way back to Tudor times and before, often for prices that seem as historic as the books - or even free! Ominibus versions, or Complete Works, are
available, and so much easier to wrangle than their dead tree equivalents, so easy to navigate too with active contents links and so on, and they take up no more space on your Home page list/shelf than a short story.

'I can't even SEE these prices, Watson! Pass the cocaine!'
Look at these bargains, current now - many were free a while back and still occasionally are: Charles Dickens, the Complete Works with illustrations, £1.83! Jane Austen’s ditto, 77p! And her individual novels are free. The Bronte Sisters complete novels, in one dollop of Yorkshire mopery and domestic violence, a mere 61p! I’ve just bought the Complete Works of Beatrix Potter, with all the illustrations, for 49p, a bargain that canny businesswoman, brilliant artist, scientist and public benefactor would appreciate. Sherlock Holmes, well you can have him illustrated and complete in your pocket for another 49p: that’s all the crimes of attempted rabbit murder, mouse house-invasion, baby bunny kidnap, and worse, together with the exploits of the greatest sleuth in the world for less than a quid! Phew.

'I am in want of my royalties, asap!'
So what, you may say. These books are out of copyright, it’s not like Charlie D and Janie A are drumming their fingers waiting for royalty cheques. Why should they cost much, if anything? But pause to consider, o reader, or should I say e reader, what is involved in bringing these classics of the past to your entranced gaze.

OK give me a break, it's new but it's mine!

I have some experience of Kindling my books, as I have the electronic rights. My new crime thriller THE OPERATOR came out on Kindle first, and I was able to format from a nice new Word doc. My previous crime novel, THE ROTTING SPOT, was already out in paperback, and as I’d made many changes during the editing/typesetting process, I was left with the typeset pdf files which of course I couldn’t change or edit. I had to convert pdf to Word, which turned into a soup of mingled words, page numbers and headings, then strip out all formatting, and start again. A baptism of fire, as it was the first book I put on Kindle. But what if all you have is yer actual physical book, a weighty dusty leather-bound volume of doorstep proportions and teeny crabbed print?

But it's so exciting dammit!!!!!!!!!!!!
They may have found quicker ways of doing this by now, but at least up to a couple of years ago it involved scanning in each page which gives jpegs, photographs of pages which no computer would recognise as words and sentences. Then applying special software can convert jpegs to text files - a laborious process. Then the formatting, all through all that mangled text. The software can get it wrong, interpreting a word as something that looks like it but means something else, and all that would have to be fixed with reference to the original text. A huge task! Even just the scanning, imagine that, page by page, for all of Dickens or Shakespeare! The formatting, going through every damn word and character and space! Come on folks, that’s worth a few exclamation marks!!

So we have the Complete Father Brown stories, for either 77p or 49p (for there are multiple versions of these classics, and all those I’ve seen have been of superb quality too). R Austen Freeman’s ‘Dr Thorndyke’, the original CSI chappie, all 27 tales for 61p. E F Benson’s Complete Lucia Victrix compendium, 77p, or even less for Megapacks of his stories and novels, and so on.

In fact, in this harsh world which sometimes seems to be run by cruel money-grubbing gits, there are people, for little return though they deserve plenty, who have gone through all that painstaking time-consuming labour, so that new generations of readers can enjoy the classics on their phones, tablets, laptops and ereaders. I think that’s well worth celebrating with a big THANK YOU!

And thank you too, to the lovely lady who was kind enough to come to my book launch on Monday, and told me she knew about the event from reading this blog - we are all delighted to know you are out there!

My website is HERE with info about all my books, gigs, and other stuff I do.
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Find THE OPERATOR (Bruce and Bennett Crime Thriller 2) on Kindle here UK US INDIA


JO said…
Oh yes, I remember the first time I converted a manuscript to make it Kindle-friendly. At first it was just buckets of coffee ... then cake ... then wine ... but well worth it.

And my Kindle is also full of classics - so I never run out of books when I'm away!
Susan Price said…
You're so right, Valerie. I've just finished tearing up a copy of Sterkarm Handshake and scanning it, page by page, through OCR software, then proofing the result - all 150,000+ words of it. And I'm now 20,000 words into Sterkarm Kiss - so I can well appreciate what you say!

And I downloaded one of those Sherlock Holmes compendiums for some ridiculous price of under a quid. Somehow, I'd never read them before. Thoroughly enjoyed having all my miscomprehensions corrected, and seeing how true to the spirit of the original the modern TV series really was. All the original illustrations too. More than a bargain - a steal! Thank you to the Anon who formatted it. Must have been for love.
Lydia Bennet said…
good to hear you're enjoying old Sherlock and Watters, Susan, and my virtual hat's off to you for the massive task of formatting the Sterkarms! Nicking a few cows and burning a few homesteads is pretty easy work in comparison. Jo, Kindle is so great for travelling! Because of my disability I can't carry much weight, so on trains I used to tear thick paperbacks in half to carry less for a journey!
CallyPhillips said…
Yes, now you have the slightest of ideas what I've been going through in the last 18 months bringing 32 volumes to publication. I have copyedited 3.5 million words and proofed over 4 times as well as formatted for ebook and paper. (About 3 weeks away from completion now)
And sorry, they are NOT free. You can get some great free out of copyright works but equally (as I found) some authors work has been so mangled by the scanning process that it's virtually unreadable... that's what started me on the labour of love (and yes Sue, it really is a labour of love because with Amazon taking 65% there's never going to be any money in it) but soon, all too soon, people will be able to read the works of S.R.Crockett in a format that would not make the author blush. Want to know more? www.aytonpublishing.co.uk and www.gallowayraiders.co.uk will give more information
Apologies Valerie for the merciless plug, but the post does seem rather relevant to my mammoth work!
If you're taking your hat off to Sue for the Sterkams... I should be getting a medal or something shouldn't I? I'll settle for getting some readers. S.R.Crockett was as popular as Dickens in his day and has worn just as well.
Chris Longmuir said…
I totally agree with everything said, and formatting can be a painful process. But when you're talking about classic, out of copyright books, I do wonder if the formatters of the paid variety are simply acquiring the books from the Project Gutenberg. This project, which is digitising books for posterity, has been going for many years now and thousands of books, have been digitised by thousands of volunteers. The books are free on the Project Gutenberg website, and folks like Shakespeare, the Brontes, and Conan Doyle are all there.

Here is the link http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page
Lydia Bennet said…
yes Cally award yourself a medal toot sweet! Thanks for linking to the Gutenberg project Chris, love to them too!
CallyPhillips said…
Ah Chris, 'for matter of classic out of copyright works' I'd like to point out that while there are loads of good free works on Gutenberg, and other sites, the quality of formatting is sometimes absolutely atrocious. That's what got me started with s.r.crockett. The only way for me to get acceptable, readable ebooks was to format them myself. Away from the 'most popular'authors free formatted ebooks is a double edged sword, so I hope I'm providing a useful service in my re-publishing venture. Time will tell. But my blood boiled when I downloaded some free crockett and found them all but illegible. I wonder how many people just give up at that point, or blame the original author. That's why I felt it the best tribute I could pay to a great but forgotten writer was to clean them up and give readers something better. I'm sure we'd all squeal if poorly formatted copies of our work we're being given away freely!
CallyPhillips said…
Ha ha, blogger edited my previous one, what irony... I started by saying 'as a formatter of the paid variety of classic works.... '.
julia jones said…
Changing the subject I do wish all computers were supplied with an automatic THANK YOU key. I also wish all cars (especially those driven by me) had a ready-to-use SORRY sign for when I inadvertently mess up (hope insurance company is not reading this..)
All very good points to make. Especially since I'm reading a 'cheap Trollope' at the moment, that would otherwise be several weighty tomes. Crockett is waiting!

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