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my name is kat and i have an ebook problem

kat kourbeti
kat kourbeti
welcome back to honest to blog (working title), a hopefully-weekly newsletter with thoughts about writing, movies, music, science fiction and fantasy stories, and general creative process blah.

... but hey, at least it's clutter-free!
quarantine is shaping up to be the perfect time to do all those things you’ve been meaning to, “when [you] have more time”: deep clean the house; mari-kondo your belongings; start that podcast; go back to making youtube videos; pick up crochet/knitting/other crafts; binge your entire netflix list; bash out that novel; read all those books piling up on your shelf, whether physical or digital.
i’ve stopped buying physical books, actually, except for the occasional hardback at events/cons. i live in a small flat with two other people, and out of the three of us i have the smallest room, and thus the least amount of storage space. i did buy a new bookcase a couple of years ago, but it got pretty full of my existing collection of research books (a topic for another newsletter, perhaps), and i’m not about to push my luck.
so, i made the switch to kindle books about three years ago. i bought an actual kindle device, the kind that doesn’t even have a backlit screen, to minimise eye strain and make the reading experience as analog as possible. it has no 3g connection, no notifications, no fancy anything (apart from my super cute vincent van gogh painting cover. that’s fancy.) i like that i can change the font and its size, and no matter how big the book i’m reading is, i’m never carrying or holding more than 190 grams. plus, i can leave notes and highlights, as well as bookmarks, which i find super useful for research.
early on, i was made aware of kindle deals; they have both daily and monthly ones, which means that prices on ebooks can drop pretty swiftly down to 99p for a limited time. there is even a handy dandy website/free newsletter that can alert you to ebook deals on your favourite genres and authors, bookbub, which is absolutely brilliant.
plus, i developed a system: i made a kindle books wishlist, and made that my default. whenever i browse kindle books and find one i want to read, if it’s too expensive for me i’ll pop it on my wishlist, and periodically (… sometimes daily, let’s be real) check the wishlist sorted by lowest price. thus even if a new deal isn’t listed on bookbub, i have a direct way of checking if books i actually want to buy have dropped in price.
i tweeted about this a couple of weeks ago, when i opened up my kindle app and curiously checked to see just how many ebooks i’ve amassed over the last 2-3 years. the answer, hoo boy—
(actually, there’s been some sales since that tweet went out, so make that 638 books at last count. what can i say except… oops?)
in my absolute defense:
  • some of those are cookbooks/reference books that don’t warrant being read cover to cover.
  • a lot of them are free. a bunch of old texts that have gone out of copyright have been added to kindle’s free books collection; i also subscribe to tor’s free ebook club, and added a few of the hugo nominees provided for free with the voter packets in 2018-19.
  • i’ve added audio narration to some of them, either via my audible credits (when i still subscribed to that), or directly after buying an ebook (which is when it’s cheapest to do). therefore some of those that count as separate items in my library are actually, technically, duplicates.
so, you know, in all likelihood i’ve spent less than £600 on ebooks over the last few years… but i wouldn’t be surprised if the total was higher rather than lower.
“but kat,” i hear you ask, “how in the world did you collect so many? what kinds of books do you even buy?”
ha! i say in reply. one does not simply ask that question and expect a simple answer. i am a writer, after all, and so obviously have to have all of the—
  • fiction (mostly science fiction and fantasy, some literary, some crime)
  • non fiction instructionals, aka research for one of my several fiction projects. i have at least two books on how to prepare for an apocalypse, which i bought for research on the post-apocalyptic phase of my paradise lost series, as well as books on sailing, for my back-burner pirate historical fantasy book, and so on.
  • non fiction history: popular history accounts of various time periods, focusing heavily on medieval+ european, proto-american, and lgbt history; highlights include a book on the history of the repression of sex in european society, an account of the romanoffs, and a series titled ‘the time traveler’s guide to __’, where the blank is a different period in UK history.
  • science explained books, mostly on quantum physics, because that’s my favourite hard-to-grasp concept.
  • books on writing, from gareth powell’s field guide for writers, to prompt books, to craft books on plotting, editing, characterisation, etc.
  • self-improvement (like yoga bibles, motivation/anti-perfectionism books, and mental health guides).
  • the odd politics book, like yannis varoufakis’ two books about the greek crisis, and ece temelkuran’s how to lose a country.
  • a few autobiographies that bear an interest, like chris hadfield’s an astronaut’s guide to life on earth, carrie fisher’s wishful drinking, and emmeline pankhurts’s suffragette.
now, have i read most of these? no. do i intend to? absolutely. will i? doubtful. i’ve created a field of decision paralysis (where i scroll through my collection and can’t seem to choose which book to read, much like when endlessly scrolling through the netflix catalogue), which i highkey hate, and even if i spend my entire day reading (which i won’t, because there’s also writing, and watching things, and cooking, and cleaning, and going on one government-allotted walk a day, and zoom calls with pals), i’ll never get through all 638 of my current ebooks.
but i’ll keep buying more anyway. let’s face it. after all, there’s no physical clutter, and when it’s only 99p… what’s the harm?
tell me about your odd addictions, if you have them. is it something harmless, like anime figurines, or something deadly, like snakes? (do any of my readers collect snakes?! make yourselves known please.) i’d love to know.
oh and if you have any book recs, throw them at me, i guess?? chances are i already own it if it’s a novel, and any help in whittling down my immense TBR will be greatly appreciated.
links for the bored—and because this is me, these are mostly youtube links. not sorry about it, they’re all gr8.
and for something a little bit different, may i suggest an absolutely FANTASTIC webcomic, set in an underground ocean on mars, which i adore and recommend wholeheartedly: mare internum. you can read it in its entirety as it recently wrapped up, but when i was reading it was still updating so you can imagine the agony of waiting for the next page! it’s got lgbt representation, spectacular worldbuilding, earnest and flawed characters, and a thrip!! (you’ll need to read it to find out what that last thing is.)
that’s it from me this week. as always, feel free to share your responses to anything above by twitteremail, or drone (or even a reply to this email).
and if you ever feel like tossing a coin my way to help offset my meager furlough money, you can do so by buying me a coffee.
stay safe and speak soon,
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kat kourbeti
kat kourbeti @darthjuno

writing, media and arts commentary from a queer g(r)eek writer of science fiction and fantasy works.

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