Friday, March 11, 2011

How To Spell Ebook?

In continued celebration of "Read An E-Book Week" I kept coming back to a dilemna I've long had when writing about ebooks.

How the hell should you be spelling them? Yes, I know "e" - "b" - "o" - "o" - "k"  - there, problem solved.

I suppose what I really mean is: How should you format the word when spelling it?

Which of the following is it?

(have I covered all of the possible combinations?)

Of course, one part of me asks if it really matters. After all, when you consult dictionaries and online references, you get a plethora of different spellings.  Wikipedia, for example, while referencing more than one spelling, uses E-book (Of course my 1996 Oxford English Reference Dictionary, a trusted book within handy reach of my home writing space, doesn't even have any version of the word - strange, since eBooks are 40 years old this year)

It matters, I suppose, because we like things to be consistent. And I'm one of those folks, who, though flexible and accepting of new and varied use of words and phrases (though I long stumbled with accepting "my bad" as an acceptible use of English), I still cringe every time I see people very regularly messing up the difference between "your" and "you're" (one of them meaning taking a possessive for the person you are addressing while the other being a contraction for "you are" - if you don't know the difference, for the love of all that's holy spend half a minute and look it up - here's one of hundreds of places to figure it out)

Of course, while "your" and "you're" sound alike, they mean different things (or are supposed to).

Ebook, e-book, ebook, etc all mean the same thing; so perhaps that's why one hasn't emerged as the more dominant.

So, the next question is, however you spell eBook, do you think ebooks spell the end of print books?

My short simple answer is that e-books will kill print books the same way that television killed major motion pictures, the same way that the transistor radio killed live performances on stage by actors and musicians, or the same way that the internet itself has already killed all of these things.

Not death, I say, but evolution.

Ebooks will have a huge effect on the publishing industry - changing the manner by which it performs and engages with the end consumer and all the various parties involved in delivering the "book" to the consumer (which can be varied and involve multiple layers or be direct - often a complex combination).

The changes, so far, have been slow and there have been many struggles and a lot of experimentation. I suggest that the experimentation (and the more the better), with how to adapt ebooks into the existing supply chain models will be what allows the publishing industry to continue on. And by experimenting, I don't mean trying to keep doing things they way they have always been done, but continually looking at new ways of delivering content to readers in effective and efficient manners.

Books and ebooks will co-exist, play off of one another's benefits and serve different consumer desires, behaviours and needs.

I have a novel coming out in hardcover in November 2012. Seems a long way off given the rise of ebooks and the greatly exaggerated rumours of the death of print books. I know the publisher is planning a launch of the eBook along with the hardcover release. (It'll be launched in time for World Fantasy Con 2012 in Toronto) I know that some customers will prefer a hard copy of the book and some will prefer the ebook version. (I also know that some will simply just steal an illegally optained copy of it - whether it's a copy of the original ebook or a scanned copy of the hardcover) - but the key, in my mind is that whatever version, or whatever spelling, "book" is still the main part of it.

I love the way Terry Fallis put it in his guest blog post on Kobo's blog yesterday.

"Whether you’re reading in paper form, listening to the podcast, or turning the virtual pages of an ebook, the story is paramount. The vessel is secondary. I can’t imagine I’ll ever stop buying traditional books, but I’m certainly going to keep buying lots of ebooks as well." - Terry Fallis in "My eBook story" on the blog

Beautifully said, Terry.


Carolyn said...

Mark, we had this conversation at Canadian Publishers' Digital Services just the other day. We've settled on using "ebook," like "email." (If you were able to see the text box I'm tying this into, you'd see that spell-check's put a wavy red line under ebook, but email, it likes. Although, it likes e-mail too.)

It's true that there seems to be no one way and it's frustrating, especially as someone who's writing the word all the time. (I am the Marking and Digital Services Coordinator at CPDS, and I send out a weekly newsletter - all about ebooks.) Let's hope this one settles somewhere officially, though, unlike copyedit. Copy-edit. Copy edit?

Mark Leslie said...

Interesting how some are built into spellcheck and others aren't. Who decides that?

BTW, I've always prefered CopyEdit. (just kidding - in all honest, that one stumps me too)

Maggie Bean said...

I guess you answered my question (shrugging shoulders)? LOL! Great article, thanks. I needed the morning laugh. ~Maggie