Are genres irrelevant?

Are genres irrelevant?

This occured to me while I was writing a post for my eclectic blog, The Measured Circle .  I was writing about the Beloit College Mindset of 2014.  You might be familiar with it…they put out a list every year of cultural facts about the freshman class, to help the professors better understand them.  Most of this group may never have used a phone with a cord, or think of the Russians as our partners in space.

 Well, they were saying that to this group, Nirvana was a band you heard on the classic oldies station.

That got me thinking…this group doesn’t listen to classic oldies stations.  They don’t listen to stations, unless they make them themselves on Pandora.  They listen eclectically, without regard to genre…not all of them, of course, but many of them.

Is the same becoming true of books?

Do you read a much wider variety of e-books than you did of paperbooks (p-books)?

There would be good reasons why you might. 

We used to have to go to a specialty bookstore to find the more offbeat stuff…a science fiction bookstore, a mystery bookstore, a comics shop for graphic novels.

Now, they are all in the same bookstore.  We don’t have to identify a book’s genre first to figure out where to get it.

We used to go into a bookstore and check a particular aisle.  I had some places I would be likely to check, to see what was new and there, or to look for a particular title or author.

That’s not the way I think people tend to get books any more…not e-books, anyway.  I think a lot of people get books because: they are free; they are recommended (sometimes with that “people who bought this also bought this” style); they are bestsellers; they are recommended on a forum or in a tweet.

Do you browse by genre?  I don’t do that very much.  If I want a book about a topic, I put that in the searchbox. 

I’m not saying that people don’t want to read every paranormal romance that comes out…some do, and some always will.

But as the volume of books increases (as independently publishing will do), the quality of the book may matter more.

You look at a book.  You see a link to another book (PWBAB…people who bought also bought).  You click on it.  It has great reviews.  You download a sample.  You read the sample and like it.  You buy the book.  That might be true even if it is in a genre you’ve never read.

When I was a bookstore manager, I read a book in every section and encouraged my employees to do the same.  I asked my regulars what was good.  For example, we had a “Men’s Adventure” section.  I’d read some of that before, but I’m not a big shoot-em-up guy.  One of my regulars recommended The Survivalist series by Jerry Ahern.  I have to say, there was one of the cleverest plot twists I’ve ever read in one of the books in that series…great writing!  Not something I’d expected.

Do I normally read in genres?  Well, there is a large percentage of science fiction and fantasy in my paper library.  There is also a lot of non-fiction, on a few specific topics.  I’ve always been somewhat of an open reader, though.

With the Kindle?  I’m reading a lot broader selection!  That’s especially true with free books.  I like that.  🙂  Some of it has been great…some of it not so good.  I like a bad book in a genre I prefer better than a bad book in one I don’t.  But I like a good book in any genre.  🙂

What about you?

This was just an idea…I’m not at all convinced by it.  What do you think?  Are Kindles like those super-eclectic iPod shuffles that some people have?  Or does it not make any difference?  Feel free to let me know…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

14 Responses to “Are genres irrelevant?”

  1. Matthew Says:

    Great poll. While I still mainly read the genres I read before I do read genres that were much lower on my ‘to be read list’ on my kindle. I may have read them anyway, but it was a rare occasion that I did read them rather than now when I find myself going to those books more often.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Matthew!

      I’m like you on this one. Part of it is books being free, certainly. But there is also this…random access recommendations element. I am more likely to jump from place to place. Hmmm…I suppose for me, another impact is that I don’t knowlingly get books from companies that block text-to-speech access. So, I’m not reading some of the books which I would have read before.

  2. Jessica Says:

    I really love science fiction and having an ereader has enabled me to find and read more SF than I was ever able to in a regular book store. I also love the sample option as it allows me to check out a book before committing to buying it. In the last year I’ve read more new SF authors than I had in the previous several years.

    I’ve always read some romance but I’ve been reading more lately as there have been lots of good deals on romance titles and some of the better reviewed titles are only in e versions. I tend to read romance only when I’m in the right mood and I like having some titles either ready and waiting for me or that I can go right out and buy and then read right then. Waiting a few days for them to come in from the library or by UPS usually meant I was no longer in the romance mood.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Jessica!

      I think many people would be surprised at how many people read both romances and science fiction… 🙂

  3. becca Says:

    I read the same genres I used to, but read a wider variety of authors. I read random non-fiction, as well (mostly science and history of science), and between Audible and Amazon, I’m finding fascinating books I would never have known existed.

    (If you read both SF and Romance, try the Liaden books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: SF romance, and excellent. And Baen ebooks are reasonably priced. Start with Local Custom)

  4. elaine Says:

    this is one of my favorite articles that you have written- it really made me think- i AM reading outside of my normal genres and it is because fo the free books and cheap books available- the cheap books i ONLY get after reading hte reviews. i usually read fiction but am getting a lot of non fiction too now
    my husband enjoys reading on MY kindle so much he is reading different genres rather than read DTBs

    <<>>>

    • bufocalvin Says:

      elaine, thanks for writing!

      That’s great to hear! I’m one of those people who are constantly re-thinking things…not in a bad way, I think, but trying to get a different perspective on it.

      I was talking to a person who had one of the first Scion XB models (the “toaster”). I thought he had a great line: “I like my Scion, but the only problem I have is I find I can’t make decisions while driving. Yeah, you have to think outside the box.” 😉

      I love that kind of subtle humor that makes you think.

      One of the recent free books is by a microbiologist…I wonder how many people will read (or at least start) that non-fiction book that wouldn’t have touched it otherwise?

      Gee, I see a possible present in your husband’s future… 😉

      • elaine Says:

        yes- germs,, genes and civilization is one my husband already read from the libray but now i am going to read it and recommended it to my son who has a kindle already.

        the main reason he doesnt want a kindle is he reads a lot of blogs and likes the COLOR so for a while he will stay with his laptop and reads on his kindle for pc a lot

  5. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I find that what I read on my kindle is only modestly broadened — not as to genres: I basically read science fiction, mystery, thrillers, computer books. Occasionally something will come up — recently twice in an hour while reading two different things, Robert Louis Stevenson came up, and it was the matter of a minute to download an omnibus of his major works; you yourself recommended “Dead Witch Walking” and I took a flyer. I read the first three in the series, but ultimately decided that it was slanted way too far over towards romance for my taste (ugh). It’s too early to tell (I’ve only had my KDX for about a year) whether eReading will lead in my case to any permanent broadening.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Interesting observations! If you read all of his works, Stevenson is outside of your listed genres…but The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is arguably science fiction. Oh, and if you read the first three books in The Hollows, you’ve already read Dead Witch Walking. 🙂 I think that’s the first one.

      Is genre-broadening part of experimentation with a new delivery system? If promotional free books go away, would it narrow again for many people? In my poll, 88% (of 100 respondents) at this point said their reading broadened…would that be true a year from now? We’ll see…

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        Well, just to be clear you recommended “Dead Witch Walking” so I read it, and was interested enough to read two more…

        Ironically, “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” is the least interesting of Stevenson’s books for me. Although it was a science fiction book by Joe Haldeman “Camouflage” which is set in Samoa — referenced the fact that Stevenson is buried there — that was one of the references that got me going. I am currently reading (rereading? — with all the movie versions and what-all, I can’t recall whether I ever read it before) “Treasure Island”.

        Since this is generally considered a children’s book, one set of titles from THAT genre that I wish were available on the kindle are all the Stratemeyer syndicate stories — in particular Tom Swift Jr, and the Hardy Boys — I wonder who has the rights these days — Harriet died in 1982.

      • bufocalvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Edward!

        Oh, sorry…I thought “took a flyer” meant you didn’t get the book. Ah, idiom…your use is correct, I believe. Sorry about that. I’ve only read the first.

        You are in the US, right? There are Hardy Boys books in the Kindle store. They are published by Grosset & Dunlop (part of Penguin). I think G&D originally published the Tom Swift, Jr. stories, so there might be hope. 🙂

  6. Don’t judge a book by its genre | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Are genres irrelevant? […]

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