Monday, July 14, 2014

Do ebook Readers Want Simple, Unchallenging Novels?

I recently reviewed a book, Locked In by Kevin Wilkirson, that raised this issue. The book has been a best seller in the UK, and Amazon picked it up in the US. It's a publishing phenomenon that I think deserves a passing look.

It's not a bad book, but as crime novels go it isn't a great one. So what's the appeal? My take on the book is that the plot is simple to the point of allowing the reader to move at least a few steps ahead of the police. The characters are two dimensional. The twists are predictable as is the ending. It wasn't a memorable book. So what's the attraction.

Another reviewer had an observation that made me think. Do readers want unchallenging novels. I suspect that may be the case. In this novel, the main character is a female detective who has a rather abrasive and aggressive personality, but no lusting after the boss, no steamy sex. The prose is simple, but that makes the book a quick read. Because the plot is predictable, you don't have to pay close attention to the clues, you can pick the book up at intervals and still be quickly up to speed with what's happening.

It's been suggested before that the reading public likes Dan Brown novels because, while the writing is less than stellar, the plot moves quickly, and the chapters are short. That's another way of suggesting that the novel is unchallenging. Romance writers understand that the public wants plots that are similar, with romantic settings, attractive protagonists, and not too many complications.

I love the idea that people are reading more. An observation on Digital Book World, reported that ebook sales were down during World Cup Soccer. This suggests that reading has become a relaxation pastime equivalent to watching sports, but I may be reading too much into it. However, if what the public wants is simple, unchallenging novels, that's something writers have to take to heart and decide whether they want literary fame, or best sellers.  

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