Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Thoughts on E-Books



First of all, congratulations to Coreene Callahan on the launch of her book, Fury of Fire, yesterday!  And congratulations to Callie Lane for the launch of Dark Abandon today.

And now on to the blog topic for the day.

I was reading an article about the rise of e-books and how they’ve increased in sales by 124 percent to about 14 percent of all sales.  There’s been a lot of talk about the death of the book and book sales and it occurred to me that there is an actual historical parallel.

Before the Gutenberg press, every book had to be written and copied by hand.  The printing press revolutionized the world of literacy, making books cheaper and more easily available, thus encouraging more people to learn to read by making it easier and more relevant.  I’m sure there was moaning about the death of the hand-written book and praising the uniqueness of each copy.  Since most books were written by monks, I’m sure there was talk about the spiritual energy of a carefully crafted volume versus a mass-produced soulless tome.  And it was eventually the death of the copyist and illuminator as a career.

Now I don’t know if you can strictly compare e-books to the printing press but there’s no denying, e-books are cheaper to produce and, provided you have a computer or tablet and Wi-Fi, easier to get. 

But there’s the issue (for me).  It’s dependent on first world technology.  If your power grid is iffy, you won’t have electronics to run and if e-books became the exclusive publishing medium, we exclude the vast majority of the world.  Granted, when you’re in survival mode, a light read is nowhere near being a priority for your time and resources.  But we’re pushing literacy for children and women across the globe, which should include encouraging them to actually read.  And since no one wants to read weighty literature all the time, that should include access to lighter material.  We shouldn’t be cutting them off.

I believe the e-book will never completely replace the printed book.  However, I could see a printed book becoming more expensive and rare.  There’s an ecological upside to this: less waste, less dead trees.  E-books are easier to take on vacation.  Since I usually end up packing a dozen novels on any trip, this is handy for me in terms of luggage space.  But at home, I like my library.  It currently has over two thousand titles.  It never ceases to give me a satisfied thrill to look over crowded shelves filled with old friends and thrilling adventures, provoking thoughts and random trivia.  I don’t think looking at a screen full of icons will ever feel completely the same.

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