Before my trip last week, I decided to load up my e-reader with new books to read on the plane and in the hotel, but gave up after a single purchase. The reason I gave up was pretty similar to the “Too many books” complaint, so I thought it would be worth going through the problem in a little bit of detail. So, here’s the scenario: my e-reader is a Nook, and if I buy books for it from Barnes and Noble directly, I can read them on the Nook, on the iPad, or on my phone, and it’s good to have that choice. So, I went to Barnes and Noble’s web store, and looked at the SF and Fantasy page, because that’s the genre of most of my airplane reading. On that page, they have a handful of featured boxes, but the books in those featured blocks tend to stay there for weeks, so they’re not a terribly good guide to what’s new. Even the “New Releases” block includes a lot of stuff that isn’t particularly new.
They do, however, include a “View All” link, which takes you to this list of recent releases in the genre. It defaults to “Best Matches” under the search, which promotes exactly the same set of not-that-new best-seller type things as their front page boxes– Dean Koontz, Laurel Hamilton, Harry Potter, etc. That’s not what I’m looking for, though– I’d like to know what new stuff has been published this week (new releases from major publishers drop on Tuesday, after all, so there should be a crop of new releases from just yesterday). So I change to the Newest to Oldest sort. And that’s where I crashed to a halt.
At the time when I’m writing this, there are a handful of re-releases of old books by known authors– James Blaylock seems to be digitizing his back catalogue, somebody’s doing ebook versions of a lot of public domain stuff (Dickens, Grimm’s fairy tales), etc. There are also a handful of books that I recognize as new releases from known authors– Terry Pratchett, David Brin, etc. And then there’s the self-published junk, most of which is obviously porn. Probably 70 of the 90 books displayed on that page are self-published works, most of them of vanity-press quality judging by the plot descriptions. The second page of results is even worse– probably 80 of the 90 are just garbage.
This is the problem. There might be a few hidden gems in there, but there’s no way I have time to read enough of it to judge, let alone money to pay for it. If I want to find new stuff that’s worth reading, I have to sift through a huge mass of crap to try to find the few things I want to read. And, really, life is just too short. So, the situation we have is that there are more books published than ever before, but it’s harder to find anything worth reading than ever before. There’s no useful way to browse new releases, as it currently stands, which means if a new book doesn’t rise to one of their promoted categories (either through merit, or the ever-so-slightly-sleazy system of kickbacks that determines book placement online or off), I’m most likely not going to see it to buy it.