Saturday, March 07, 2009

Interview: Read an E-Book Week Founder, Rita Toews

Please welcome today Read an E-Book Week founder, Rita Toews!

She’s VERY excited about next week and the growth of E-books. In addition to founding this event and running the website – Read an E-Book Week - Rita is also an author. So she has a lot going on in her life!

So I thank her for answering a few questions for me…

Read an E-Book Week! Give us some details about this event!

Read an E-Book Week is an officially recognized week dedicated to informing the public about the pleasures and benefits of e-books and electronic reading in all its forms. Anyone with an interest in the industry has the opportunity to promote their particular area of expertise through the website, and/or any other event they wish to hold under the banner of Read an E-Book Week. A promotional event may include making arrangements for a segment on internet radio, an interview on a tv or radio talk show, planning a library display or scheduling a reading of an e-book at a school. One great idea would be a reading challange. Anyone willing to start one?

The companies and individuals on our partners page have become involved as their resources direct. Authors and publishers have either committed a free e-book or a number of e-books. Some individuals are contributing essays and blog reports. Warren Adler wrote a fine article and is donating a free book and story. provided traffic allowance upgrading so the site doesn't crash under traffic. ePublishers Weekly has an entire page on their website about reading e-books.

You can visit Read an E-Book Week at Read an E-Book Week

Why did you launch Read an E-Book Week? Give us the humble beginnings…

In 2004, when I launched Read an E-Book Week, people didn't understand e-books so the industry was regarded with suspicion - even snubbed. Authors who released their books in electronic format weren't taken seriously. Many promotional doors were closed to them. I hoped that a registered event that celebrated e-books would give authors some degree of "legitimacy" when they approached promotional venues. Now they could say "I'm available for an interview during Read an E-Book Week", or "I'm willing to set up a library display for Read an E-Book Week". When the tv station or library checked, Read an E-Book Week was an actual registered event. It was a slow start, but in the past few years e-books have really taken off - especially this past year. E-book sales in the educational sector have increased 400% over last year.

Who are some of the biggest partners for this event?

There are many recognizable names on the partners page of our website. One big name in the arts world stands out - author and playwright Warren Adler. Movie-goers will remember the movie from his novel The War of the Roses, directed by Danny DeVito and staring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. Mr Adler has written a great article on our main page and is donating a book and short story. E Ink has been wonderfully supportive, as has Sony. donated the funds needed to upgrade our site traffic so it wouldn't crash under heavy use. We appreciate everyone who has contributed, or would have liked to contribute. For some their business is technology - pretty had to make that tangible! Blogger such as yourself are incredibly valuable to Read an E-Book Week since they get the word out about e-books.

How are books selected for the website’s store?

I wanted to bring visitors to the site so I selected the bestsellers from Once people are on the site they are able to see other vendors featured on the same page who carry wonderful niche-market books, free books, and books from small presses. I've tried to contact the bookstores for reading devices other than Kindle but its incredibly hard to reach anyone other than technical help at most e-book reader book stores.

Book returns are a big problem with the industry, both financially and environmentally. E-Books obviously eliminate this problem, but digital printing has had an impact as well. What are your thoughts on digital printing?

Digital printing is definitely an improvement over mass production of books that end up being used as window dressing for book stores and then returned to the printer. The quality of the book may be slightly lower, but at least the book was produced for a prospective sale rather than speculation of a sale.

Most people still like to hold a physical book. How soon do you see that changing? Or will there be room for both mediums?

E-book readers have really evolved. With e-ink technology the screen image is almost a replication of reading on paper. Also, I think people are becoming more aware of the environment. Paper comes from trees, and the process of turning trees into paper is highly polluting. I see people's attitudes about reading e-books - or reading electronically - changing. And I definitely see that there is room for both digital and print books. Some books that just don't cut it as e-books. Books for babies that are made on cloth for instance, or art books. Those beautiful coffee-table style books are a joy to hold and read. But I think the genre books do very well as electronic books, as do product manuals, and a doctor's
pharmacopeia. I know several doctors who can't be even surgically removed from their PDAs.

Then, of course, there's the matter of travellers who want to bring a lot of books along on vacation. What could be better than loading 5 or so on to an e-book reader and setting off to Spain?

Do you have an E-Book reader? Or do you read on your computer?

I have not one but TWO e-book readers. The first one I acquired was a Hiebook. I loved it because it had a light so I could read in bed without disturbing my husband. The light, unfortunately, caused a huge drain on the battery, and the reader only supported the .kml format. I now own a new Sony reader and love the clarity of the screen. It's easy to download books to it and I forget I'm reading an e-book.

I don't read books on my computer. My favorite reading position seems to be lying down - rather hard to do with a computer!

From an author’s standpoint, has your book’s availability as an E-Book increased sales?

My e-books were always e-books, never available in print. My print published book (Body Traffic) was not released as an e-book. I do know that my e-book revenue has surpassed my print book revenue - so that says something. My website (I write with a co-author) is at: Domokos

Finally, tell us a little bit about your Bully books!

I have several anti-bully books for children. The Bully was first released as a free download because I thought the information was important enough to be available to everyone. I soon began to get calls and emails asking for the book in print. "We need to hand it to the parents," the callers said. When I received an order for several hundred copies I decided to provide it in print. To date The Bully: A Discussion and Activity Story is in schools throughout Canada and the U.S. It has been shipped to Tasmania, Australia and England. It is used by schools, police departments, several mental health facilities and service groups.

In e-book format I provide Why Me? - an anti-bully book for teen girls, and Bullying-A Parent's Primer for parents.

You can visit my bully books site at : The Bully Book

And the last word, Rita…?

If you've never tried reading an e-book - give it a try. If you have in the past and didn't take to the reader, try a new Sony reader. The e-ink screen makes reading an e-book a pleasure.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I agree the E-book is here to stay and is the wave of the future. I'm a dinosaur with respect to them though, I love the tactile experience of feeling and smelling and turning the physical pages of a book. Call me old fashioned. But I recognize the future when I see it, all my books are available in print AND ebook and kindle. Problem is, as an author, ya can't make a buck selling in ebooks - the royalty is piddly compared to what an author gets on the sale of a printed book. I don't know how that's going to work out for those of us who barely eke out a living writing as it is.

  2. Rita,
    Thanks for founding Read an E-Book Week. It's helped bring awareness of e-books.

    You've had a different experience than most authors I know regarding royalties. Royalty rates from most e-publishers are much higher than from print books. Presently, e-books don't sell as well so the author may make more money from print sales, but royalties are individual sales are usually more on e-books than print books.

    Thanks for hosting Rita.

  3. Diane and Rita:
    I have used e-books very effectively for promotion, in particular an e-cookbook that features reciepes that inspired 26 authors from different countries. I explain how I did it, promoted it and it, in turn, promoted us, in my book The Frugal Book Promoter.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Tweeting at

  4. What a great way to celebrate the E-Book!


  5. Hi DIane,

    I mentioned this interview in my Suite101 article:


  6. I agree with most comments, especially the part that says "thanks" for doing this. ;) Lots of tweets over at Twitter about Read an Ebook Week so that's very heartening, too. Soon, everyone will be jumping on this bandwagon, even the holdouts.


  7. E-Books are a great way to encourage people to read again. I just hope that more novels were available already.