Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Seems like these days anybody can just upload their novel to the Tubes, like they're Hemingway or some crap."

Books take up space.  Viable space.  Space I could be using to store my multitude of CDs because I think they're nifty.  Also, books are made out of paper.  You know what that means?  If you're a voracious reader, you're killing a lot of trees.  As an Oregonian I am programmed to tell you that you are SICK.

But my biggest beef with books is that paperbacks are so easily ruined.  I get pretty OCD about keeping things looking new for as long as possible, and this includes my books.  Mends in the spine, dogeared gross.  People go on and on about "well loved books" being beautiful, but I want mine to look like they just walked out of Borders with a top hat and tails.  Because I paid money, that's why.

So you'd think I would be all over this E-reader stuff.  After all, I love my little electronics like my Preciouses, and think that the more things we can convert into digital the better - that means less "wasted" resources and more free space in my physical life.  (Says the woman with 300 CDs.)  And if I had an E-reader, I would name it Spock, because come on...they're so...Spocky. 

But I'm not.

When MP3 players first came out I was all up in that shiznit.  Cell phones are cool for convenience.  And yeah, I get why E-readers are so cool, because you can't use braille and we all know that the idea of John Milton trying to bask in his own glory with an E-reader would be hilarious to witness.  Plus the files are so cheap most of the time that it's almost criminal.  It makes buying the Penguin Thrift Edition of The Old Man and the Sea seem like a ripoff.  And yet I can't stand the thought.

It's all for purely selfish reasons, I assure you.  Do I want to live in the age when books become totally obsolete and everything is digital?  (I know, unlikely in my life, but humor me.)  Ever since I was a kid I was obsessed with books.  As in the actual physical aspects of them.  My love for the shape of a book was so hardcore that when I wrote my own stories, I would cut pieces of printer paper in half and handwrite on those...because then it was like a real book!  I loved going to the library and determining where my books would appear on the shelf.  I do not, however, like going to Amazon and determining where I would be on the search page.

I'm old fashioned, kids.  Books piss me off in their impracticality, but I have deeply ingrained into my subconscious that it's the ultimate form of my work.  I'll know that I'm achieving my dreams once I pull the first hardcover copy of my debut book from the box sent to me by the printer.   All those copies will then go into the trunk of the car and I will begin to loathe their existence, but damnit, I wrote a book!  I can look at my work in digital form whenever I want - all I have to do is open the original Word documents.  Actually seeing the dead trees and used ink means a lot more to me.  Those trees died for my novel.

But I'm not stupid, because obviously digital is the future and yadda yadda yadda.  Yet even when I see people reading from E-readers when at the park or on the bus, I think, "Man, would seeing somebody reading my novel on one of those things be as cool as seeing them read an actual book copy?"  I dunno.  Probably.  I guess it depends on how bored their faces look.

So what say you, readers?  E-readers.  Have one?  Want one?  Sworn them off and still using a pager to sort your life out?  As a reader have they changed the way you read?  As an author have they changed your view of your future publishing career?  Do you even know what an Amazon Kindle is?  I need to know, because I am nosy.

PS:  I am totally probably going to ask for one for my birthday.  In before anyone calls me a potential hypocrite, because I totally know.


  1. For a lot of the reasons you've outlined, I'm not a part of the E-reader crowd. After listening to many authors dish about the dismal royalties for digital copies of books, I'm against it for the financial aspect. The total is less than a dollar per purchase, so unless you're selling like (erk) Stephanie Meyer, an actual "profit" is nearly impossible.

    Beyond that, though, E-readers also completely eliminate the possibility of writing in books and marking pages with sticky notes for papers and research, which is kinda sorta necessary if you're an English scholar. Writing on your text is the ultimate way to engage when you're a student, especially if you have trouble with reading comprehension, and it needs to be encouraged rather than completely eradicated.

    Also, call me crazy, but I have trouble reading from a screen. Computer, phone, E-reader, etc. -- I always get a headache or an eye aches (OR BOTH). Not very fun. =(

  2. I might get one, one day. But I love the smell of books too much.
    Plus, if I like the book enough I want it in my collection, and not just on a hard drive somewhere...I want it on a shelf so anyone who manages to get that far into my ManCave can look at my collection of books and be impressed at how intelligent (or immature) I am.

    I also tend to want to contribute when I love a particular artist. For authors that I like, I want to support them by purchasing their books, for bands i like, I buy their CD's, for movies I like I buy the DVD's.

    That aside I could find myself owning an E-reader might just get to the point that I'd rather download the book for a couple bucks than drag my ass to the library to pick it up just to see if it's worth the read.


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