Novels, novels everywhere, and not a book to read. How many of us have been in that situation at some time in the past. Show of hands? How many of us are there right the heck now? Show of hands? Yeah, I thought so. What’s up with that?
Most of us have a lot of books. I mean, a lot of books. Once upon a time, this meant stacks and stacks of paperbacks, overflowing the shelves, into plastic tubs, maybe, or cardboard boxes that may or may not smell slightly of mango or a light pilsner, depending on where one gets ones boxes. Plastic milk crates, maybe. Before that, there were stacks and stacks of hardcovers, filling shelves (the very best ones were floor to ceiling and had rolling ladders) and arranged neatly on any flat surface after that, supported by stately bookends. Once the e-book revolution came around, those stacks turned digital, and split off into two different categories: “print” e-books, and audiobooks. Okay, maybe three, if we’re going to count visual novels, which we probably should, but it’s easy for an abundance of reading material to turn into more books, more problems.
How so? For one thing, it’s easy for a reader, today, to be spoiled for choice. Where once there were a handful of big NY publishers, plus the British/Canadian Mills & Boon/Harlequin, the rise of indie publishing has turned that pool into a literally limitless ocean. Anybody can publish a novel, either digitally, or in print, though getting the word out also falls on the duties of a self-published author, so distribution isn’t quite the same. Even if one can’t reach every reader, one only has to reach one’s own readers, and now, more than ever before, that’s true.
Whatever one’s flavor of choice when it comes to romance, there are authors, from the big NY publishers, small publishers, and the indies, who have exactly what’s desired. Let’s say contemporary romance, or Regency historical, or maybe shifter paranormals. Pick one of those categories alone, type it into a search engine, and watch the hundreds of options scroll past. Drowning in dukes (possible series title there?) or surrounded by shifters (ditto) or surfing through a sea of single dads with emotional baggage that overflows the diaper bags slung over their broad, muscular shoulders, where is a reader to start?
Time was, a reader could walk into a brick and mortar store, back when there only were brick and mortar stores, wander the shelves for a while, pick a book that looked interesting, scan the spine, browse the back cover blurb, figure there’s a couple of entertaining hours between those covers, and saunter up to the register. Next week, come back, and do it all over again. Still possible, and maybe even moreso, with all these extra options, buuuuut – wait, is this book in a series? The answer to that is almost always yes. Okay, where in the series? How many books come first, and does the reader have to read those books first? Sure, sure, many authors assert that the books can all stand alone, but can they? If a child were born the day I read one book in an early Catherine Coulter medieval series out of order, and had a livid rage built up over the hero having carnal knowledge of some other not-the-heroine woman, right there, on the page, before I checked the copyright date, which meant the heroine was not even in his life yet, well, that person could probably be the parent of a person old enough to marry without parental consent…and I still remember that feeling. So, putting that out there.
Then there’s the issue of format. I love e-books. I love print books. I love paperbacks. I love hardcovers. I love the strange hybrid of paperback and hardcover that came out in the nineties, for only four books, and then disappeared again. I love audiobooks. There are times when I want a particular format, say paperback, but my paperbacks are in storage, and my e-reader is not tub-friendly, so I am going to be a wee bit cranky because I have literally over four hundred novels at my fingertips, but none of them can come with me into the tub. Sure there is the option of setting the phone away from the water, and playing an audiobook (which I did not think of until now, so this may be worth investigating) but it is not the same.
Neither is a dilemma many of us can remember, and those who prefer paper, can relate to, today. Say you’re on vacation or otherwise away from home. You’re in the mood for, say, a good old fashioned western historical, maybe some inspirational flavor, but not a lot. What do you have with you? Bunch of contemporaries, a twelve-book paranormal series, some erotic romance, few sexy Regencies, couple romantic suspense, but no inspirational-flavored western historicals, and does that even mean you have books with you, at all, when that’s what you want? That’s debatable, and it is another area where I do not have a definitive answer to this particular question.
In my case, the proper way to deal with such a situation is (“proper” being defined, for this purpose, as “what I actually do”) is to stomp around in a circle, grumbling, until the matter is rectified, usually by going out and obtaining the sort of book that I actually want at that moment. This, of course, supposes that I know what sort of book that is, and where and how to obtain it. There are those times when I want…something. Can I describe it, though? Maybe, if we can broaden the definition of “describe” to sifting through a random first few pages of a random assortment of books, setting each aside with a “meh, not that.” Repeat until finding “that.”
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. How do you handle being in this situation, when nothing quite fits? Pull up a chair in the comment section, and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.