Apr 18 2011 4:37pm

Going Digital

Barbara Hambly digital rereleasesSomeone asked me the other day what it feels like, to see all my “old stuff” reappearing, at long last, in digital. And I had to smile, because to me it doesn’t feel like “old stuff.”

In fact, of course, I’m delighted that people still want to read them; that the characters, and the places, still have for others the same attraction that they still have for me. I’ve lived with these people for a long time, and I love them very much. (Well, maybe not Benjamin January’s frightful mother so much, or the evil Bishop Govannin….)

Oddly, I feel like I came back to fantasy a year and a half ago, when I started writing short stories about the character-sets from those old Del Rey fantasies, and selling them on my website, long before discussions of digitizing the original series' was even thought of. To do those, I went back and re-read the Darwath series, the Windrose Chronicles, and Dragonsbane and its sequels, and was pleased to see how true the characters still feel to me.

Of course, I wrote Time of the Dark in 1978 and The Silent Tower in 1984, so the thing that sticks out for me is how totally technology has changed. I suppose that’s the great peril for real-world crossovers. Gil and Rudy had never heard of cell phones, or of Star Trek: Next Generation for that matter. Joanna’s computer technology sounds rather quaint: for one thing, there was no internet when I wrote those books, only the beginnings of connection between various bulletin-boards and that, only for geeks. (It was pretty entertaining, when writing the 2010 novella Firemaggot, to go back and look up how someone would do a computer search for information in those ancient times).

But I love digital for a number of reasons.

It’s very compact. I have a couple of dozen books on my reader: ideal for a long trip, or an afternoon waiting at the medical clinic. It’s flexible. I think in the future we’re going to see a lot of niche-marketing of things that big-money paper publishers wouldn’t take a risk on. And it doesn’t make sense to take a risk on something a little out-there if you have to print 10,000 copies that might not sell. With digital, if it only sells 500 copies, well, that’s 500 happy people in the world (501, counting the author). No storage worries, no returns.

Downside? It’ll take a while for all those strange old books that I love to show up on digital: books that aren’t current bestsellers, but aren’t public-domain freebies either. I suspect, like old Leslie Howard movies or episodes of one-season TV shows of the ‘60s, they will eventually show up. I would love to see that whole market open up.

I’m just extremely pleased that if people want my old Del Rey fantasies, they now know where to get them, easily and without fuss. I hope they don’t disappoint after all these years.

Barbara Hambly is a New York Times bestselling and Locus Award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction, as well as historical novels set in the nineteenth century. Seventeen of her novels are now available as ebooks from Open Road Media

1. Nightsky
This has frack-all to do with your books, but I just want to say that your panel on Doctor Who historicals at this past Gally was my favorite panel of the weekend.
Tanja Wooten
2. TanjaW
The Darwath trilogy, Sun Wolf and Star Hawk, The Winterlands and the Windrose chronicles are well-worn books from my home library that I still like to re-visit on occasion. I suppose if I eventually picked up the digital versions I could rest easier knowing that these old paperbacks (and a few hardbound) won't lose pages and fade even more from handling. :)
David Levinson
3. DemetriosX
I may be a little outside the mainstream here, but I think the book I'm most glad to see getting any kind of release is Search the Seven Hills. It's always been so hard to find.
4. Patrick M.
Bishop Govannin was evil - surely a role model? :)
Lianne Burwell
5. LKBurwell
I love that they are being released in ebook (Bride of the Rat God is a long time favorite), but I do think they got a teeny bit overpriced. Over on, they are being priced at $11.50, while your Benjamin mysteries are all around $6.
Claire de Trafford
6. Booksnhorses
I think it's great that people can get these fantastic stories on ebooks - you've long been a favourite s/f author and I've recently discovered Ben January. I do wish that it was possible to get some sort of voucher for the ebooks if you have the original hard copy, and v.v. After all, I can put my CDs onto my iPhone, but I have to buy my books twice? Doesn't seem quite right.
7. NancyM
Just finished reading Stranger at the Wedding on my kindle, and enjoyed it very much. I wanted to read it after Jo Walton reviewed it here, and it was great to be able to get it, as you said, easily and without fuss.
Andrew Peschar
8. Dropbear64
I read The Silent Tower and The Silicon Mage in ebook form and found them just as much fun as I did when I first bought them. The dated computer (and clothing) references were an added bonus in that they made the Earth based sections seem intentionally historical. It is great to see them back and I'm looking forward to rereading the Darwath series as well.
Paul Howard
9. DrakBibliophile
DemetriosX, _Search The Seven Hills_ is one of Ms Hambly's books that were released in e-versions.
David Levinson
10. DemetriosX
@9: And that's why I said I was glad to see it getting a release. It had a very small print run under a different title originally and I think was only released one more time after that. In the intervening 20-30 years, it's been very hard to find.

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