1. To cause to feel self-conscious or ill at ease; disconcert.
2. To involve in or hamper with financial difficulties.
3. To hinder with obstacles or difficulties; impede.
Sixteen bodrillion people forwarded me this link, so thank you to all of them: IT World says ebooks are taking off because women can buy erotica and romance without embarrassment. Specifically: “porn is blazing a path to a new media format.”
Lest anyone think I’m quoting out of context, let me grab the two paragraphs that caught my eye.
Barnes & Noble abandoned ebooks once, so why are they coming back to them now? Because the format is starting to take off. Why is that? What’s popular on Fictionwise? Well, once again it seems like porn is blazing a path to a new media format. Of the top 10 bestsellers under the “Multiformat” category, nine are tagged “erotica” amd the last is “dark fantasy”.
Hey, I’m not judging anyone (one of my dearest friends is an erotic romance author) and yes, I’ve used the most salacious Top 10 list on the site in my example, but this data backs up my anecdotal observations. People who read erotic romance and ‘bodice rippers’ love ebooks because of the privacy they offer, both during purchase and when reading.
I disagree with the first, but not with the second. People who read digital copies of romance and erotic romance like ebooks because for a long ass time that was the only format in which they were available. Furthermore, people read erotic romance and romance in ebook form because they prefer to do so. But in terms of purchasing privacy? That’s a tough debate, because for a while, epubs were the only ones who were actively publishing erotic romance. Arguing that people wanted privacy so epubs provided it is putting the cart before the horse, or the balls before the mighty wang. I think privacy was a bi-product (pun intended) of digital publishers seizing a new market opportunity in fiction through the most inexpensive and quickest venue possible: digital media.
But in terms of privacy needs driving the market? I disagree. I’m not embarrassed to buy romance or erotica. I really don’t care. My Give-a-Shit is totally broken in that regard. Chas, one of the readers who forwarded me the link, agrees:
I must say that I have NEVER been ashamed to be seen purchasing any romance or erotica. The only reason I have ever purchased an E-book is due to the fact that I live in BFE and don’t have handy access to a decent bookstore. I’m an instant gratification type girl – I want to read something right then, not wait for it to arrive, or have to leave the house to purchase the book. Instant gratification usually always wins.
In fact I must say, I usually take an extended period of time browsing through the romance selection at every book store I go to. I’ve even been known to strike up loud conversations with the person standing next to me regarding the content of several books. (Insert husband eye roll here.)
I am PROUD to be a romance reader and refuse to hide in shame or be embarrassed by my choice in reading material. If I cared what people thought, I hide in a damn cave all day.
Right with you there, Chas. eBooks don’t appeal to me because I’m embarrassed to be seen buying them.
But let’s be honest: privacy while reading is a total benefit to eBooks. Being seen with some erotica covers is embarrassing in the context I defined above: disconcerting, difficult, potentially hampering my financial status. Cover art decisions are often so salacious that while they work as a point-of-sale attractant to potential readers, they do NOT work as something I can read at work on my lunch break without having a call from Human Resources within 5 minutes.
Take Megan Hart’s 2008 book Tempted:
Hart is no slouch in the fiction department. There are a LOT of people who adore her books. I personally couldn’t finish “Broken” because the narrator so strongly reminded me of someone I knew, someone who was broken and still is, that I couldn’t suspend my own painful reality to read the book. Pretty evocative writing, if I can’t get past my own reality because the fiction so strongly resembles it.
Anyway, cover. Take a look at the cover. Can I read that at work? On the subway with umpteen children going to school on the train with me (yes, kids take the subway to school in New York)? For God’s sake, near my mother in law? Yes, there are book covers, but for me, they are a pain in the ass.
I’ll tell anyone who asks what I’m reading, that it’s erotic fiction or historical romance. I’m very up front about it and don’t give a shit what most people think. If they have a hard time reconciling my brain with my enjoyment of romance and erotic romance, that’s their problem. I don’t think less of anyone because they read the NY Daily News, despite the headlines like “Air More Stinky, Kids Less Thinky.”
But I cannot read a book featuring a cover of gyrating limps and limped man-titty and massive wangs and side-boob out the yin yang, no matter how blithe I am about my reading material. It’s not a question of my shame. It’s a question of hostile workplace, disciplinary phone calls, or having some fucknut presume upon my own sexual choices based on the cover image I’ve got in my mittened hands. It’s a question of where I can appropriately be seen with openly sexual content because for the most part, the USA is as uptight about sexuality as a virgin’s sphincter, and book covers aren’t going to change that. I remarked on this last weekend as the first ever ebook LOL.
For that reason, among many others, ebooks are marvelous things. I’m not embarrassed to be reading anything. But there are times when the cover art is so over-the-top hornypants I am categorically unable to read it in public.
That said, resting the success on ebooks mainly on “Woo! Hidden porn!” evidence is a faulty argument. The fact that the cover art is now hidden is a minor benefit. I sure as hell do like that benefit but that’s not the main reason I’m a very happy digital reader. The ability to control text size and to read with an on-board light with the Sony 700 or to wirelessly load content on my device as with Kindle I, and Kindle II: The Matzoh Edition, is WAY more important than whether or not anyone thinks I read erotica, or whether the cover art earns me some raised eyebrows. eBooks are as much about a new and comfortable experience of reading as an act of leisure more than they are about squirreling away salacious content from prying, nosy eyes. Peekaboo Porn is a fringe benefit, and a very far-off fringe at that.