I finally broke down and bought a Kindle and, even though it's not yet in my possession (isn't it typical? I waited in all morning for it to be delivered and when I finally gave up and left, I came home to one of those 'you were out' messages), book-buying addict that I am, I've already been scouring Amazon for possible purchases.
I've made a deal with myself that I will only use my Kindle for a) books that are 600 pages or more and therefore extremely difficult to carry around in physical form and b) e-books that are very, very cheap. It didn't take me very long to notice that some of the cheapest e-books available on Amazon are the ones which have been published independently. What surprised me was how interested I was in reading some of them.
On the one hand, if a book comes to you from a reputable publisher, you are assured it will be of a certain quality. A team of people whose job it is to put out books will have guided, edited, proof-read and polished a book before it gets into your hands. But I can't say I've thought every published work I've ever read was high quality. And of course I believe that there are talented writers out there who can't get a publishing deal.
I've bought paintings from street artists before. I've been to music gigs for unsigned acts. Most of all, I read countless reviews from people who aren't paid professional critics. But I've yet to buy a self-published book. Part of the reason is the investment - it doesn't take more than a few minutes to read a review or listen to a song, whereas reading a book can take days. As for a painting, one look can tell me if I like it or not. And I can read a review and listen to a song for free; books cost money.
Which is why e-books and the internet at large, are making such a dramatic difference for self-published authors. If I were to buy a book, the fact that it costs pennies on-line is a huge incentive. Ultimately? My final decision would be based on this: If a reviewer I trusted and knew I shared tastes with recommended such a book, that would be enough to make me give it a try. I think I'm now at the point where I listen to my fellow bloggers more than any 'official' source for books.
What about you? Do you read self-published works and if not, would anything convince you to give them a try?