“There’s just something about an eReader. I love to inhale the subtle scent of… plastic. They make me happy seeing them all lined up on the… counter. Charging. On a rainy day, nothing beats a fire in the fireplace, a cup of your favorite hot beverage, the sound of rain pattering against the window pane, and the… silence of your finger swiping across the screen to the next page.”
Said no one ever.
Note: this is a revised post from 2-20-2012. Additionally, links in this post may be affiliate links which will provide me a small commission at no extra expense to you.
Ten or fifteen years ago, when I first heard about “e-books,” I assumed they were for things like tutorials or rare books unavailable in other formats. Some said they’d replace physical copies. I laughed. C’mon. Try inhaling the wonderful scent of ink and paper while losing yourself in your Kindle. It’s not going to happen. Well, not unless you maybe have one of these awesome candles burning beside you. Just don’t inhale too deeply. You might burn your nose! I digress. I really couldn’t ever see physical books being totally replaced by digital books, and I still agree with that in many respects.
I want the real thing, baby!
It’s no secret to those who know me at all. I like real books. I want the pages to bend in my hands. I smell them. Really. Look, some people like heroin. ME, I’m an ink junkie! I love the weight of a book (particularly hardcover!), the covers, the rows of comforting friends on my shelves waiting for me to have a moment to step into their worlds and visit for a while. I’m not the only one.
Not only that, I think there are solid reasons for us to keep printing good books. Can you imagine what would have happened to places like the Library of Alexandria (assuming it hadn’t burned… bear with me here) or would happen to the Library of Congress if hard-copy books are allowed to go the way of the laser disk? Remember those? Movies on disks about the size of record albums? In even a hundred years, what are the odds that anyone will be able to find a way to play one of those suckers?
Computer formats change so quickly. Punch cards gave way to giant floppy disks that were actually floppy. Then rigid ones. Then CDs, and those shifted to “memory sticks” which we now call “thumb drives” and SD cards. With Internet speeds what they are, people don’t even need those most of the time. We just download from “the cloud.” What happens when that cloud becomes a storm?
And what about the thousands of digital books that never made it into print. Popular books today might be worthless tomorrow–and vice versa. Think about books that were flops when they were first published but subsequent generations fell in love with them. What’ll happen if there are no hard copies for later generations to discover in an old, musty, delightfully-scented second-hand bookstore?
The eBook Advantage? Is there one?
I think so. After all, I write books that become eBooks. I own a Kindle and use a Kindle app on my laptop. I purchased my first Kindle in order to help me check formatting for my own digital books. I figured that if people want an eBook, they want a quality reading experience. And in that process, I learned a few things–like how I LOVE to use it for research. Hypocrite much? Maybe, but…
Picture it. I’m in the middle of a Madeline book and I’m looking for the perfect sesquipedalian word to use in a particular instance. Thesaurus.com failed me. My next choice–The Well-Spoken Thesaurus. I can reach for a hard copy and search through it for half an hour, which does have the advantage of giving me that ink and paper high I claim to love, but it’s a lot of work. When I’m in the middle of writing my book, I don’t want to thumb through half a million pages of someone else’s to find the one thing I need. Look, the search feature alone in any Kindle/eReader makes it worth owning one (or at least using the app on my laptop!).
But wait! That’s not all!
Kindles also have that wonderful portability aspect. I was that kid–you know, the one who packed a suitcase of clothes and one of books for every trip. Yeah. That was me. With an eReader, you don’t have to add chiropractic visits on your return from vacations to the budget. One little Kindle holds enough books for one trip–even for the most voracious reader. Which I am. In fact, this mug was created for me. I’m sure of it.
Ebooks are also excellent ways to try new authors (assuming the publisher is reasonable about pricing. For just a few dollars (sometimes less than one or even FREE), you can discover if you really want to invest in the entire works of Ima Greatwriter.
Furthermore, the educational field alone is a perfect place to replace many books. Textbooks. Oh, yes. I see the day when people will rent textbooks that are downloaded to ereaders instead of printing giant tomes that are only used once or twice before advancements or time passage makes them obsolete. It’s really a win/win for everyone. Publishers will make more than ever because updates are cheaper and they won’t lose as many sales to resale. Students will save massive amounts of money and won’t be tearing out their hair because the book their sister purchased last semester won’t work for them this semester. Not that this has ever happened in our house or anything.
But there’s a drawback to ebooks, of course.
Look. As quickly as things change, my guess is we won’t want out-of-date hard-copies of most textbooks, but I do fear what will happen when history is revised into whatever is currently popular (sound familiar) with nothing left to prove that things are being taught to one particular bias. Let’s face it. All historians are biased. No matter how hard they attempt to be objective, everyone has a bias. It’s not possible to be completely objective. However, if generations are taught by ever-increasing narrow opinions defined by “correct opinions” (That’s quoted from Jane Austen’s Persuasion, not a modern speaker), without a record of previous thought, what’ll happen to so-called objectivity then?
What’ll happen to the poor students who can’t get through their cram session without an infusion of ink and paper into their bloodstream via inhalation?
Again, I confess to having a bias.
As an author, I have a strong connection to my hard copies. I love to look at my shelf and read the titles and think, “Whoa… those are all my books! A box comes in–a new title. Those shiny covers call to me and sing, “We’re here! Let the party begin!” Of course, I want to walk into a bookstore and see them on the shelves. It gives me a kick every, single, time!
However, I’m realistic. I’m not writing great fiction intended to delight readers of today and the future. Wynnewood, perhaps, may be a little more timeless due to the historical and fantasy elements, but the Rockland Chronicles were written to encourage today’s Christians. What we fight against today may not be an issue in a hundred years.
Digital books are easy for me to produce. I write, edit, edit some more, and then some more, do very little interior “decor”, upload, done. Then I sit back and that’s the end of it. Until I learn I’ve left out a hyphen or a comma or something. I fix it. THEN it’s done. At the end of every month, I get a deposit into my bank account and all is well. I don’t have to keep a huge stock of books, don’t need wrapping supplies, and the USPS doesn’t have copies lying around the dead letter office somewhere because their machines destroyed it–or worse, some employee just had to know how something ended. It saves my readers money and on most books, I get a decent cut of the profit. We all win!
However… I don’t get quite the same thrill to see another book on the spreadsheet as I do when I get an email from my publishing company in my inbox–or better yet, I get an email requesting I send one, signed–informing me that someone has just made the choice to give one of my books space on her bookshelf. That book may have temporary space on that bookshelf, I’d never expect that it would stay indefinitely, but temporarily is pretty cool, don’tcha know.
And c’mon… let’s face it. You know I’m over here in my house thinking, “Does she love the scent of the ink on the pages? The whisper of paper as she turns to read the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next chapter, the end?”