Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

Guest Post by Alex Sharp: I am SO ready to make the switch to e-galleys

By Alex Sharp

Alex Sharp answers Question #4:

I am so attached to my Kindle that when I was reviewing The Surf Guru (Doug Dorst) this summer, I was frustrated by not being able to change the font.I would love to have only e-galleys to review.  I am the Featured Writer for Audiobooks and eBooks for Suite101, and it seems like publishers aren't quite aware that is ebook readers actually need reviews of an ebook, not a bound book.  When I review an ebook, there is an element of hardware reviewing as well; readers need to know if a book doesn't work well on a particular device. For example, Christianity (Diarmaid MacCulloch) had formatting problems for the Kindle.  The book really was just adapted from the print version, although they were published simultaneously.  The ebook repeatedly refers to specific pages in the book, and Kindles do not have page numbers.

If Amazon's marketshare claims of 70-80% are true, publishers need to take formatting for the Kindle seriously.  A Nook ebook is more like a hardback in terms of pagination (we can all play The Page 99 test with the Nook!), but the Nook has lost the Kindle vs. Nook war; if anything, it the true battle will be Kindle vs. Sony Touch.  The Sony Touch also has formatting considerations, but they are different from the Kindle.  With the Kindle, people highlight text and share to social networking; books can look like books and work well.  The tablet-pen of the Sony changes the reading experience; when I use a Sony Touch, I want to write in the margins, and there are no margins.  Now that schools are going ebook — Clearwater High School is Florida just issued Kindle 3 to students — reviewers need to review ebooks for both content and the reading experience.


Since ebook reading is a different experience than hardback reading, I can't wait for e-galleys to become standard.  No one would expect me to write an audiobook review based on having read the book but not heard a word of the performance, so why is it acceptable to write an ebook review based on a paper galley?  Maybe if iBook reviews had been done on iPads, people would have realized the overheating issues and the reflective glare problems before they downloaded books and were left with nothing to do except tweet their grumblings.


I wish my book clubs could go ebook. My cat sleeps on my bookshelf now, and every month I get a new book from The Rumpus book club, and these paper Kindles that keep coming in the mail box make me feel a bit Amish, quite frankly.