E-publishing, particularly e-self-publishing, is a burning hot topic this summer. Blogs and discussion boards are fired up for and against (Verla Kay's Blue Board thread "all the buzz about e-books" stretches 14 pages and claims 6050 hits as of this writing.)
I'm not here to persuade writers to e-s-p, nor to argue that they shouldn't. I want to focus on one powerful argument against it. How will readers be able to find the best—or even the good—e-s-p books among hundreds of thousands on offer? Popularity filters already exist. But where's the Quality Filter?
Replies to this argument tend to express merely a general optimism about how these things tend to evolve and sort themselves out naturally on the Web.
Because the objection is valid. Customers (especially for Kidlit) want Quality, and they want to find it quickly and easily. Quality Filters for e-pubbing in general, and e-self-pubbing in particular, won't work until they're at least as efficient and reliable as the filters we have in traditional publishing.
So—what Quality Filters exit in traditional Kidlit Publishing?
- Agents. (Because most slush stops here nowadays.)
- Teachers and librarians
- Bookstores, real or virtual
- Word of Internet and Word of Mouth
(As I listed these, I realized that most of these filters are weakening these days. Bookstores are closing; review publications faltering; educators and libraries struggle with tighter budgets; marketing departments wield a powerful veto over editorial choices. Even the prize committees are under attack in recent years, from those who object to their criteria or its application.)
Do any of the same Quality Filters operate for e-s-p books?
- On-line publishers? The ones I've seen seem geared to adult genres.
- On-line bookstores? Neither reliable (provide only favorable professional reviews) nor efficient.
- Teachers and librarians? Huge potential, once they figure out a system to share ratings.
- Internet word-of-mouth (blogs, clubs, ads, social networks, etc.)? Need their own Quality Filter!
So I'd like to propose several possible E-Quality Filter models that can be created quickly, by the existing Kidlit community itself.
1) Pay a visit to the writers' cooperative e-bookstore at http://www.bookviewcafe.com/ Here the Quality Filter is the presence of some well-known, distinguished authors. Their names suggest a level of quality for all the authors in the co-op. The big names also serve as a magnet for search engines, exposing the less-known authors to potential readers.