Saturday, February 04, 2012

The 8-Track Mentality

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.


  1. but. but...but! You can spill water on a paperback and it will work forever!

    It lasts forever!

    O.o obviously he hasn't seen what I have done to my Stardoc books.


  2. Geez, are we still thumping our chests and gnashing our teeth about this?
    And I have yet to hear a valid argument on why we can't enjoy both--or whatever may come next. Books will always be around in one form or another.

  3. I love print books. BUT i can only fit a finite amount in my apartment. And I roam the world, and so its more expedient to use e-books in some cases.

    Its not an either/or. I plan on offering my work in ebook and print, because hey, as long as people are reading, I don't care what format they pick!

  4. As a person who is losing his sight, I really enjoy the e-book formats that let me enlarge the text. And if there was a e-reader tablet with read-back functionality, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

    But I see it as packaging for stories. Nothing more, nothing less. It's the stories, not the media, that matter to me.

  5. Anonymous7:29 AM

    Interesting post! While I prefer holding an actual book, I will use my S.O.'s Kindle when I'm in great need for a new read.

    I don't want to limit myself. ;)

    By the way, I saw Mackan's comment about finding an e-reader with read-back functionality. The Kindle we have (and it's one of the old ones) lets you choose a male or female voice to read to you. I don't use it, but it is available.

  6. All I can say is that I love to read in electronic formats. I am an early adopter of ebooks (10 years this month) and have been an equally loud advocate ever since. I discovered them accidentally, while I was looking for erotica books at Amazon. I stumbled on one of Jaid Black's books. When I researched her further (the book was offered on "CD", Amazon didn't have instant downloads then). I ended up at Ellora's Cave. Of course, I didn't have a portable ebook reader at the time, so I had to print the first ebooks I ever bought, or read them using my PC, which I didn't exactly like. It didn't take me long to get myself a portable ebook reader. It was a handheld, similar to a Palm Pilot, and I loved that the screen was "larger" than that of a handheld device. After that I decided I wanted a color screen one and got a Dell Axxim Pocket PC, another handheld. There were no ebook readers as we know them now, yet.

    What got me hooked: the instant gratification factor of being able to download instantly after my purchase (I get my favorite authors' new releases electronically, without having to rush to the B&N only to be told that "we haven't received it yet"; I can control font size which has proven wonderful as my eyesight is not what it used to be; background settings control allow me to choose a background suitable for nighttime reading without needing a little lamp; ability to carry hundreds and even thousands of books with me wherever I go (as a commuter to NYC, that was a Godsend); solved space issues as the apartment I live in is not big at all. Add to that the discovery of lots of wonderful authors that, to this day, are still favorites *waves at Shiloh*. I still read in print though. I fully understand that many still prefer print (my husband is one of them), but for me, it's a matter of having more to choose from. Certain "niche" subgenres, for example, are still better served by electronic publishers.

    Either way, I am not looking back. Authors like Mr. BigName better get used to the idea that things change, and thank God for change, without change, Society would not be where it is now.

  7. I own an e-reader and love it for the convenience it offers me as I travel around everyday with a heavy bag of things I need to survive (living without a car is a lot like being a turtle -- everything is on my back) and an e-reader means that I can carry all the books I want without weighing myself down. I also love and continue to buy paperback books because anytime I read a book I truly love on my e-reader, I want to display it on my bookshelf and home and want to be able to lend it to friends or just take it down and flip through it and sniff it (don't judge me. . . I love the way books smell!) Does that make me a traitor? I don't think we need to pick sides, and if you think about it, e-readers have done wonderful things making more books more accessible to people who perhaps don't live near bookstores. They don't have to wait for days or weeks and pay shipping to have their books brought to them. There is something to be said for instant gratification -- especially when you finish the first book of a page-turning series at 3 A.M. and realize that you will die if you don't get the second book RIGHT NOW! We've all been there, haven't we? I, for one, will continue to embrace both formats because they both add to my life.


  8. Hey, I still have a working 8 track player. :)

    It's not the player that is the problem, but the tapes start to age. So I'm now looking into ways to make my spiffy new Can Do Everything But Clean The Flat-DVD player and the old track player talk to each other so I can convert the tapes. It works with those old shellack records, so why not with tapes?

  9. Mr. Important Author also prompted me to take a closer look at e-readers. Probably not what he intended.

  10. Though I will always prefer print to ebook, I do like the portability of an ebook, or 20. When I travel, I'm no longer limited to only a few books in my bag. With my Nook tablet, I can carry hundreds.

    That said, as long as it's a ripping good story, I frankly don't care what format it's in. The story will always come first for me.

  11. Oh if I only had all the music I recorded on 8 track tapes back in middle school. . .

  12. Tammy S10:49 AM

    I too prefer print BUT I received a Kindle Fire and I love it! I can actually read more books this way, because I don't have to worry about storage and the price in many cases is lower than print. As for the read-back I don't use it, but I believe the Fire has that as well. I know the font can be enlarged. The screen is great, the glare is gone from the earlier models I'd looked at.

  13. I never thought I would get on board with an e-reader. I'm a hold-it-smell-it-turn-the-pages kind of girl. Then I moved to a very small town in the middle of nowhere. At first I ordered online, then waited (impatiently) for delivery. Last summer I gave in and bought myself a Kindle for my birthday. And let me say, there is nothing so cool as downloading whatever I want in just a few seconds. Plus, when I travel I can take as many books as I want on the trip in one slim little device that fits in a pocket of my purse.

    When I can, I still buy the real thing--I love my books--but I also love my Kindle. It's the best of both worlds to me.

  14. Sigh. I *like* print books. I'm not fond of all the electronic gizmos.

    I suppose I'll get there eventually, maybe about the time you find one you like, since it sounds like we have similar objections.

  15. Do you agree at least that you can't create literature on ebooks?

    Just got a kindle for my birthday, and have been using it. I love that it remembers where I left off, love that I can change the type size (yes, I'm at That Age), and only regret not getting the WiFi enabled version so I can DL my books easier.

    I won't give up my books, and love and appreciate the ones I'll read again and again (especially the picture books). I expect the Kindle will be used for free books (I'm researching Twain for a short story I'm writing), and disposable books that I don't care if I don't have in paperback.

    But until the EMP comes 'round and fries all our electronics and throws us back to the age of Gutenberg, ereaders are staying, and it's very "get off my lawn" for Mr. Eminent Writer to say so.

  16. I was neutral when it came to ebooks. Sure, as an author, I want to publish ebooks, because it's the digital age, but up until recently I only read print books. Now that I have Kindle, I admit it's much easier to read ebooks (though the latest Dresden Files I will buy in paperback, even though I'm finishing it on Kindle right now - I have a paperback collection that needs to be complete damn it!)

  17. Here's why my loyalties are shifting more towards ebooks these days. (I have a kindle keyboard.)

    1. I have carpal tunnel and holding books open causes flare ups sometimes. I don't have to hold my kindle open.

    2. It is really light and fits into pockets and purses.

    3. I can change the font size. I have 20/20 vision, but the larger font helps reduce eye strain issues.

    4. I can buy books in the moment when I really want to read them, and read many books (like Great Expectations!) for free. It's the whole instant gratification thing.

    5. And the e-ink screen almost looks exactly the same as the page of a book. No glare! The contrast is a little different in low light situations. I can't wait for a color version too.

    I can understand still preferring paper books. I still like to see books in my home and on my shelves. I like the smell of paper and ink. But for me, it's almost become a romantic notion. The paper book is a luxury to me. It costs me space, time, and usually a bit more money to purchase it. Sometimes I want to enjoy this indulgence.

  18. Have you tried the nook touch? It is pretty light, has no nonbook stuff, is readable in bright light (although you have to have a light on to read it, just like you would a normal paperback), and best of all I can make the fonts larger!

  19. @Mireya: Eloora's Cave got me into on-screen reading too. Then it ws just a short hop to my kindle a few years later.

    I've had my kindle for 3 years and I have... 438 books on it. Is that a lot? It feels like a lot. Definitely more than I would have bought hard-copy.

    And in the weird consumer's mind-set, I continue to spend just as much at my local bookstore, except now it all goes to children's books. For some reason I feel I can buy more kids books now that I am not buying grown-up books... Hmmm. No wonder my spending money goes so fast.

    Bad for my wallet, but I can't see how it is anything but good for publishers and authors.


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