Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Reading in the Cracks (an IWSG post)

I've always been one of those people that carries a book wherever I go. It started in elementary school, actually, when I would finish assignments way before the rest of the class, and the thing I was allowed to do was read. Well, or sit quietly at my desk. I don't think teachers realize how difficult it is for an eight-year-old to just sit quietly anywhere when everyone else has something to do. So I started filling in those cracks with reading. Of course, at the time, it was from books in the classroom; it wasn't until middle school that I started carrying books with me. Probably so that I'd have something to read on the school bus. But I discovered that having a book with me was a good thing because it didn't matter where I was, when I was stuck waiting for anything, stuck in a crack in time, I had a book to read. By high school, I was the guy with a book. Not that anyone ever called me that, not to my face, anyway, but people would comment. And my friends would ask me why: "Why do you always have to have a book with you?"

They never really understood the answer. Even that I liked reading didn't suffice as an answer. I suppose that was too foreign a concept for most of them. I know they didn't get it, because the same people would ask that question over and over, like I was lying to them, "But why...?"

When I was younger, those cracks in time where I would slip some reading in were often large and happened frequently. Actually, thinking back on it, now, it's amazing how much time kids have to just... waste. And, mostly, that's what they do with it. Yeah, yeah, I know it's part of being a kid, but, still...

The biggest crack was at bedtime. That was like a grand canyon of time every night when I would spend a couple or few hours reading. Man, that was so luxurious, and I didn't even know it.

The problem is that those cracks get smaller and smaller as you get older, especially once (if) you have kids. In fact, some of those cracks get filled in completely. There's no sitting around in class reading because you've finished whatever everyone else is working on. I'm thinking that behavior is mostly frowned on at most jobs, at least most of the jobs I've had. And bedtime reading is nearly non-existent. There is just too much tiredness. Whereas I used to read at least an hour every night, I'm doing good to get in 10 minutes these days (which is why it took most of the last year to read The Casual Vacancy). My reading cracks have been reduced to waiting for my kids after school, a yield of about 20 minutes a day, and waiting in line at the bank, which I generally don't do more than once a month.

All of that means that I need to restructure the way I read. Reading in the cracks just isn't good enough anymore. But there's a bigger reason for that.

The way I read, or have been reading, requires that I have something I can carry with me, which means an actual, physical book (because I have no mobile device for reading), but what I really need to be doing is increasing my e-reading (which requires that I sit at my computer (not entirely pleasant after sitting in front of my computer all day already)). And why do I need to do that, you might ask.

One of the things that really bothers me as I bounce around to blogs by other indie writers ("indie" encompasses (by definition) self-published authors and traditionally published authors published by any publisher that is not one of the "big" publishers) is that, when they talk about the books they "love," they are almost exclusively talking about books from the "Big Six." In fact, there are frequent posts that just gush over books like Gone Girl (being the one that I ran across the most this week (half a dozen separate posts about this book)), which is not the problem. The problem is that there is a deficit of posts like that about other indie writers.

The implied message (which I'm sure is completely unintentional but is there just the same):
I am an indie writer and you should read my books. Yes, I am that good. However, other indie writers out there are not as good as me, which you can tell because I only read books published by the Big Six traditional publishers.

Yes, this bothers me. As an indie writer, I do my best to support other indie writers by reading their books (and reviewing them, but that's another discussion) and letting people know what indie books I've read that I really like (see that reviewing thing, again, which is still another discussion). It doesn't mean that you have to give up reading books by the Big Six, but, if you are an indie writer, you probably ought to be giving something close to equal time to other indie writers. That message says:
I value what you do as much as I value what I do.

That's an important message to be sending. Not to the other indie writers (though that is important) but to readers. Readers need to know that indie books are no less good than Big Six books, and the only way to let them know that is by showing that we are reading them, too.

For me, specifically, this is going to involve some changes in the way I do my reading (at least until I get some kind of portable device). No more just reading in the cracks. I will have to set aside deliberate time in which to do reading at my computer so that I can start working on, really working on, my TBR list of indie authors. It's important.


  1. Now days if I sit "quietly" at my desk I fall asleep, lol.

    I did read to my kids at bedtime, until they used it as an excuse to stay up later because I'm such a slow reader.

    I have not gone the indie-pub route as I lack confidence in my writing that it is at lease as good as a "Big Six" author. All that self promotion is just intimidating. I applaude authors that can be both promoter and author.


  2. Those cracks do get smaller.
    Still don't think of myself as indie though. That would mean most authors are indie.
    I read books from both sides, as well as feature them. I see a lot of authors do that that. Shame some don't.

  3. I usually have a pretty good balance between reading Big Six and indie books. That hasn't been the case lately—through no one's fault but my own—but I try. Someday I hope to be an indie author, so I really try to support them when and how I can.

  4. I'll read books by indie authors I know but I have too many books on my Kindle already to go seeking them out.

  5. My reading habits are something I intend on talking about soon. Somewhere. Not now though. My phone is only good for me typing out a complete thought or two. I can't do several in a row. I lose track. I still try to read as much as I can. Although I intend to read less in 2014 than I did last year.

    But my crack time lately had been reading blogs. It's already taking time away from reading.

    And I have very pleasant thoughts about reading as a kid. I think you said 8 in there somewhere. At that age I felt like reading was magic. I could understand something someone wanted to tell me by all those squibbly marks on a page. I couldn't get enough of it. I always had something to read too. Still do, in fact. Always. I also have physical AND ebooks handy in case a battery goes out or something.

  6. I also used to carry around a book at all times, still do (only now it's a couple of hundred on my kindle). I do have less time now so most of it is spent reading books I never got round to. I tend to read fewer and fewer recent releases and more classics. Not a slight against modern authors, just a choice about how to spend the little free time I have.

    Moody Writing

  7. You're so right. I used to read a ton before I had kids. I thought as they got older, I'd be able to get back to it but that isn't the case at all. I carry my Kindle to all of doctors appointments. Got nothing but time there.

  8. I have "read a book" on my weekly schedule. Tuesday afternoons, after grocery shopping and other errands. I had to designate a day where I would set aside some time (usually an hour) to read; otherwise, I was sliding in a few minutes here and there, exactly as you describe, and sometimes not even that.

    I don't know if a Kindle or other similar device is in your budget, but I am still amazed by how much I use mine. It has paid for itself many times over, especially in terms of convenience for reading indie stuff (and the tons I pull from Project Gutenberg).

  9. Unlike you, I'm always wishing I had remembered to bring a book with me. I end up reading whatever I can find or just read people and my surroundings.

    I don't read nearly as much as I'd like to and I have a ton of books on my shelves that I still want to read not to mention other things elsewhere. I try to balance my reading between classics that I still haven't read, non-fiction, and indies. Then sometimes I get the situation like I recently had where I read Great Gatsby for the first time (and loved it) and then read some teen fantasy about witches (which was a big let down after Gatsby. I'm no fan of teen novels about witches and normally wouldn't read them except it was from an indie author whom I had met and I told her I'd read the book and review it. Reading the classic beforehand put the triviality of the next book in perspective.

    Still I feel like I need to read all sorts of things to know what's out there. Other than not reading enough, I think I do pretty well at reading diversely.

    A Few Words

  10. Wow.

    I never thought about the message I am sending to other indie writers, but you're right.

    I do have a backlog of indie books on my kindle, and this year I decided to do something about that by setting aside a bit of time at lunch each day to read those books. So I alternate between the 'classic' book I'm reading (right now: The Brothers Karamazov) and the next book on my list (which currently is a "Big Six" book but there are people like Sandra in line). Then, at night, I'm free to read whatever I want.

    But you are right: indie books do probably get short shrift even from other indie authors. That may be just a matter of marketing: I like indie movies and TV shows, but as often as not I'm at "The Avengers" and not some indie flick.

    As for reading 'in the cracks,' I was JUST LIKE YOU: I always had a book, so much so that rather than ground me from going to play or something, my parents to punish me would ground me from reading. Nowadays, I have my Kindle with me pretty much all the time, and love it.

    But also, I've had to squeeze in reading where I can -- my latest is that I read while the boys are taking their bath: once I get them situated, wash their hair, etc., I can get a good 5-10 minutes each of reading while they play in the tub. Two baths = 10-20 minutes.

    That's why I started carving out 2 hours a week where I take a break and go spend time just by myself: to read, work on my drawing, or just take a walk. We've got to make time for the things we love in addition to doing all the things we love.

  11. Donna: Yeah, I can't sit quietly, either, which is why reading while standing is a good thing for me. heh

    Self-promotion is intimidating, but I don't think there's any worry about being "at least as good as a 'Big Six' author" considering some of the crap they shovel out.

    Alex: Yes, most authors are indie. A publisher doesn't make one not an indie. Did you know the Star Wars movies all indie movies? By definition.

    M.J.: I do see you reviewing indie books from time to time. :)

    Pat: I haven't had to go seek out any, yet. They have a way of finding me.

    Rusty: Reading blogs, all of the blogging stuff, is work for me. I mean, that's how I look at it. If I didn't, I wouldn't read many blogs.

    mood: I'm trying to work in more classics, too. Part of that is increasing my reading time.

    Elsie: Doctor's appointments are good, too, but we don't have enough of those to depend on for reading.

    Elizabeth: A Kindle is not currently in the budget. It probably won't be for a long time.

    Lee: Well, what I really wish is that I could get paid to read. I suppose all of those jobs have gone, though.

  12. Briane: You, also, are one of the most supportive people I know of other indie authors, so I don't think you have anything to feel bad about.

    I need to work walking back into my schedule. If I could go walking and reading at the same time, that would be the best. Of course, it wouldn't be indie stuff, but it would be more reading.

  13. My TBR pile definitely grows faster than I can read it down, but once I got a Kindle app on my phone, I noticed maaaany more cracks in the day... Such as (the obvious) bathroom break, whenever I'm waiting on a microwave or elevator, even if I'm walking across campus where I work..

    Regarding alternate book suggesters, have a look at this website http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/
    Just enter your email and check the boxes that apply and they'll email you daily with different ebook suggestions. I know it sounds like spam but it honestly has yet to annoy me! And I have run across some cool looking books! And they don't differentiate between Big 6 and indie!

  14. I don't know what The Big 6 are, but I don't think I read them. I carry around my Nook with me everywhere, but I tend to do most of my reading on my iPhone, and it usually is indie authors. I have a very long tbr list...

  15. Like you, I always carried a book around with me as a child/teen. I was horrified at the thought that a "crack of time" might become available to me and I might NOT have a book to fill it with! And I also didn't realise that those hoooouuuuurs of reading at bedtime were such a luxury.

    I'm finding now that my reading includes a lot more indie books than it used to. It's a good thing :-)

  16. You're right, carving out time can be so hard with kids. I was almost relieved to hear that I'm not the only parent who simply can't stay away at bedtime for longer periods of reading nowadays. I'm just exhausted. I think the two things I need to find more time for (other than writing) is reading and exercise. Physical exercise has been virtually nonexistent for me for the last three or four years (other than carting kids around and having dance parties to the Frozen soundtrack), and I wonder if I'd have more energy if I found time to do at least some stretching, sit-ups, etc....enough about that. I think you make an excellent point about indie authors and how they should be spending at least some of their time/reviews on other indies. Well-stated, Andrew.

  17. I don't have a device either. Call me old fashioned, but I love to hold a book in my hand. I also love the smell of books. Weird huh? Now that my kids have left the nest I have more time and spend a lot of my time reading. Last year I found several classics in a second chance book store so I have been rereading the classics.

  18. David: I'm familiar with the fussy librarian. Mostly, I just delete the emails these days.

    RG: I'm sure you do read them. If you've read -any- "mainstream" fiction (like Harry Potter), you've read from the big publishers.

    Rachel: I always hated getting stuck somewhere without a book! It was horrible. I have a story...
    for some other time.

    Jessica: Hey, don't know carting around kids as exercise. That's hard work.

    G_G: My lack of a device has nothing to do with my fashion. heh
    Electronic books are better for the environment, and I'm all for that.

  19. I still read a lot. I always have a book in my backpack so I'm never bored.


  20. Gina: That is one thing backpacks are good for.