I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey. I probably won’t; I didn’t read Twilight and I prefer historicals, with their stages of mourning and layers of underthings to be ripped. In this Wall Street Journal article about eReaders making erotica more popular, Katherine Rosman buries the less sexy lede: making more books available digitally means, in the most basic sense, more books are available to more readers. I’ve borrowed Emma Holly ’s novels from my library, but the only way to read Beth Kery (granted, I’ve only read Wicked Burn) was to find her on Amazon. I don’t think erotic novels are more popular; I think the people who are open to reading them can finally find them.
I’ve bought more romance novels in the past year and a half than I have in all my previous years combined. Not because I can now devour their digital secrets in public, but because once I had my Kindle, so many more books were available to me sans the pain of waiting for shipping.
Of the authors I’ve glommed in the past year (a word I learned from Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches Trashy Books), I’ve learned about all of them online, sometimes through google searches like “historical romance awesome sex scenes,” which lead me to SBTB, Dear Author, and Read React Review, and sometimes through the scholarly discussions at Teach Me Tonight. As a direct result of reading these websites, I’ve found books I never would’ve known about, books worth the thousand dollars I spent to have them in 2011.
My buying habits haven’t changed because I can finally sympathize with swollen loins in public. I’ve read enough Johanna Lindsay; I’m not going to buy her books for my Kindle just because no one will know that this is the cover of the book I’m reading at the gym:
I don’t buy the digital Johanna Lindsay because I don’t need to keep her books with me. I buy Meredith Duran’s because I do. Last year, while living on an island in Northwest Wales where bookstores were scarce, I downloaded The Duke of Shadows. After I read the last page I bought her entire catalog because I couldn’t find them on the island, and I didn’t want to wait for the Royal Mail. I discovered Joanna Bourne’s The Black Hawk after it was reviewed on Dear Author. I loved the French Revolution setting and strength of her female characters; as soon as I finished reading, I bought the two other books in the series.
I buy digital versions of romance novels because I have no patience and so much love: I want them when I want them. I also buy digital versions of favorites I already own in paperback. All this coverage of how the Kindle helps people keep “secret” their habit of reading romance novels shames the genre’s best authors. I regularly buy extra copies of Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm, Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels and The Duke of Shadows to give them as presents to my friends. These are not books to be read in secret. These are books I put in the hands of people I care about because I want them to share the experience of reading and re-reading them with me.