I just read a vastly entertaining article making the rounds of NetPubLand in which a Big Important Author ridiculed e-books. It seems the evil that is e-books once more threatens the very fabric of our society. Or, at least according to Mr. Big Important, readers are damaging it by wanting e-books.
I really should be on his side. I love print books, and I have a pretty extensive personal library of them. The e-books I purchase are those I can print out at home. Print is my reading preference, hands down. Thing is, I don't expect the rest of the world to limit themselves to writing, publishing or buying only print books to accommodate me. Why would I?
For that matter, why does it have to be either/or -- print book or e-book? I write both, I publish both, and I want both for my readers. I don't believe print will ever become obsolete, but so what if it does? Maybe they'll invent an e-reader that suits me (they've finally got small tablet touchscreens; now all they have to do is something about the weight, the slippery casing, the glare from the screen and all the non-book crap on it.)
Whether we like it or not, the world moves on.
Big Important Author's mistake is that he is clinging to an 8-track mentality in an MP3 world. Think about it -- how often has the way we listen to music changed in the last forty years? 8-track tapes were all the rage when I was a kid, and then cassette tapes came along. The 8-track people were horrified. CDs then replaced cassettes (I was a bit put out by that; I had my entire music collection on cassette tapes. But I got over it eventually.) Now MP3s are replacing CDs, and I'm sure the format will change yet again in my lifetime. As long as I can buy new copies of all my old Coldplay, Linkin Park and Staind albums again, I won't bitch about whatever format they're in.
And despite all these technological changes to how music is delivered to the consumer -- many more changes than the Publishing industry has weathered -- it hasn't damaged the fabric of our society. Music is still here, still wonderful. We still listen to it. Music continues to enrich our lives, and we still love it.
Why would books be any different?
Storytellers have been in business since prehistory. Before there were books we used to sit by a fire and tell our tales to the tribe; do you think any of those storytellers would be pissed to know that their descendants started writing them down on scrolls and carving them into clay tablets? Would they despise the monks who often spent their entire lives working in scriptoriums and illuminating them page by page?
For that matter, how about Gutenberg and his invention of mechanical movable type printing? Gutenberg was the Steve Jobs of his time, agreed? So should he have been roasted over the tribe's fire for his temerity to bring book production out of the Dark Ages?
Anyone who truly belongs to our ageless clan of scribes knows it's the story that's important, not how you tell it, or with what you tell it. It doesn't even matter who tells the stories. As long as they're told, there will be someone who wants to hear them.
I don't want to have an 8-track mentality in an MP3 world, so Big Important Author's tirade was actually good for me. I'm going to get out there and have a look at the latest crop of e-readers. I'll also check and see if there is a better type of monitor for my computer that would allow me to read comfortably from it -- that might be a good compromise. And as the world moves on, hopefully so will I.