To E- or Not to E-

(Forgive me Mr. Shakespeare, especially since I’m not asking the question.)

I want to share links to two articles by Julie Bosman that appeared in the New York Times (August 12, 2010). First, the writer Pete Hamill has announced that he’s bypassing paper for the publication of his next novel and taking his book straight to digital. You can read the article by going to:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/12/books/12hamill.html?ref=arts

In the Business section of the same paper, Ms. Bosman reports on the increase in E-book sales being reported by all the major book outlets. She states that some worry large bookstores may decline, as did record stores after music went digital. Read the article at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/12/business/media/12bookstore.html?ref=business

My contract with Blank Slate Press includes the option of taking my novel to the electronic format. As a writer, I want my book to reach as many readers as possible.  So if my readers want an E-book or an audio book, I’ll certainly oblige. And we haven’t even talked about my plans to reach the people who prefer their stories on film. (Are you reading this Jason Reitman?)

I don’t own an E-reader, nor do I have plans to buy one. Many of my friends use them, and I certainly understand their appeal. In the end it’s a question of personal choice. I choose the tactile experience of the book—the more beautiful the better. And a leather jacket on a plastic E-reader will ever come close.

I’m a reader, not a collector; but I’ve walked away from books that are badly done (read: acidic paper, muddy type, dreadful margins that squeeze the content of each page). I’ve also taken classes in bookbinding from the artist, Joanne Kluba at her Paperbirds Studio (www.paperbirds.com). If you’ve never made a book by hand, I recommend it.  As with most art forms, it can be humbling to take something from imagination to the real world. Even so, after making books under the guidance of a real artist like Ms. Kluba, I’ve come away with an entirely new appreciation for the craft.

Hundreds of years ago, when all books were made by hand, the materials were considered so precious that books were literally scraped clean so that new texts could be written on the same pages. That practice makes me as anxious as the idea of loading up an E-reader with hundreds of titles, only to have the technology change, making my collection no longer accessible. Anyone who thinks this is ridiculous obviously never used early word processors, computer programs, floppy disks or zip disks.

E-books are here and their influence is growing. But, (as Mr. Hamill observed) how will an E-book allow for a book signing?

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2 Responses to To E- or Not to E-

  1. Greg Dill says:

    Greg wrote:
    “I’m an old school bibliophile. Nothing like having a new or used paperback book in hand with the liberty to earmark my pages and freely carry it around wherever I go. I also enjoy my old school textbooks for seminary that I can scribble notes in, highlight, underline, and earmark my pages when needed. I have literally hundreds of books on my shelf, some of which have been read and held onto. These are typically the books that made an impact upon my life. Other books on my shelf I have yet to read vying for my attention each time I venture into my library deciding which new book to begin reading. With exception to the books that I hold dear to me, a finished book is discarded into my “Half Price Books” bag awaiting my next trip back to the store to be traded in for more books. This has been my life for the past 10 years as I am by all definition, addicted to reading. I have been members of several book clubs and belong to a book lovers website called http://www.facebook.com/l/493d9;Shelfari.com where I track all books I have ever read, owned, and soon will be reading, and where I can maintain my wishlist.

    However, something life changing happened to me last year. I finally bought a Kindle. It still sits on my bookshelf untouched with the intentions of being used at some point or another in my life. The primary reason I bought the Kindle is because my family will be moving to a country where books written in the English language are a very rare commodity. Therefore, as a true bibliophile, I have planned ahead for this new dilemma. Aha! I now can download English written books from http://www.facebook.com/l/493d9;Amazon.com no matter where on the globe I may reside. And that is the ONLY reason why I am privy to e-books. But, I am truly an old school bibliophile at heart, and like everything in life, will have to eventually resign to new technology and new ways of doing things, including the reading of e-books.

    Sigh.”

  2. I love books. The heft of them, the feel of the pages, the covers, the smell of them when you crack them open. That said, I also love my Kindle. I’ve been reading–on and off–Moby Dick for the last 2 months. I finally finished it last night–on my Kindle. While at least 2 copies of the book sits on our shelves, I chose to read it on my Kindle because I read in bed and can adjust the type size so I don’t have to read with my glasses on. (The pitfalls of middle age!) Plus, I was able to slip the Kindle into my purse and could read while I waited at the Dentist (instead of perusing the latest People magazine).

    To paraphrase the wise author of Ecclesiastes, for every book there is a time to read it on the e-reader, in the print form or even on the iphone. – Kristy

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