Okanagan historian turns to electronic publishing

Okanagan historian Doug Cox has chosen to publish his latest history as an e-book.

My shelves are groaning with books piled two-deep. One of my new year’s resolutions is to sort through them all, pitch the tired ones and get the rest back into circulation for others to read.

Already I get most books from the library, for the simple reason that they don’t stick around to clutter my house. I’m starting to wonder if it isn’t time to go one step further and check out books on my e-reader.

If local historian Doug Cox (who you wouldn’t expect to be on the latest technological curve) can do it, then so can I. In fact, Cox is publishing his latest history book — Okanagan, Similkameen, Tulameen — as an e-book.

“I’m not really into technology,” he admits. “When I grew up the phone was attached to the wall with a hand crank next to it.”

But he recognizes the benefits of e-publishing.

“There’s really no down side to it,” he said. Switching on his iPad, Cox flips through the e-book pages of Okanagan, Similkameen, Tulameen. With this format, he is able to incorporate more colour photos. The cost of printing colour photos in traditional publishing is prohibitive.

“Now I can put in hundreds,” he said, while zooming in on a photo until all the faces are clearly visible.

The price for the customer is much better too. Traditionally, to cover printing and shipping costs, Cox charged approximately $35 per book.  “Now for the price of one book, you could buy all five of my previous books in an e-book format.”

Some readers may be unwilling to adjust to the paperless format. And in Cox’s case, may miss browsing through his history books while visiting the local farmer’s market.

“I still have one foot in traditional publishing for those,” Cox said.

“E-book usage at the Penticton Library is pretty limited, although growing in our city,” says Karen Kellerman, public services librarian. “The demand will continue to rise, but how quickly is difficult to know.”

But Cox is confident that the quality of e-books is going to win over readers.

“With time, it’s only going to become a better and better way to publish history,” said Cox. He foresees being able to incorporate voice recordings into the format. “As you know, history is best when told by those who lived it.”

One of the reasons I haven’t read more e-books is that my e-reader, the Kindle, is one of the few that isn’t supported by the B.C. library e-reader system. I also haven’t really liked the fact that my first edition Kindle isn’t touch screen. Now that I have an iPad2, reading e-books promises to be a better experience.

But I still worry about keeping clutter out of my house. With each technological advancement, my shelves pile up with more wires, adapters, battery chargers and out-of-date e-readers.

Visit the Penticton Library home page at www.library.penticton.bc.ca to find out how to access Library-to-Go, the provincial collection of available e-books. Cox’s books are available for purchase on his site: www.okanaganhistory.com.

Heather Allen is a writer and reader who lives in Penticton.