I love books. I have loved to read since I was a little girl. I grew up in the 80’s and while technology was making huge strides (floppy disks were on my school supply list which I thought was sooooo futuristic…lol) when it came to books, there was nothing that could compete with a real book. No iPads or Kindles. I grew up loving the look and feel of books. It’s a part of who I am just as much as my other love, music, is.
Recently there has been this huge discussion about whether or not real books are “dead”. It seems crazy to think about right? The popularity of various eReaders and eReader apps have made books accessible to anyone, everywhere, all the time. There is no downside to that particular fact in my opinion. What is hard for me to accept is that people seem to think that the eBook will completely overtake it’s ink on paper counterpart. That people will simply stop printing books. Silly rabbit….
Change is hard. I get it. Do you know how frustrating it was for me to transfer all of my CD’s to MP3s? For a while I was the only one with a portable CD player when everybody else had that other amazing little device called an iPod. Those were dark days ya’ll. Eventually I warmed up to the idea and got on board. Did I ditch my CD and vinyl all together? Well…let me explain. I think this situation is analogous to the current tug of war between eBooks and print so bear with me. When I used to buy CD’s I loved opening the case pulling out the insert and reading lyrics, reading the artist’s dedications. I loved the album artwork. I liked that I had something to display in my CD rack. To this day, when I want the totally immersive experience of buying and listening to a new a new album I go buy the actual CD. This is what I think has not been addressed through digital publishing and it’s why I feel that book lovers like myself will never turn our backs on the printed book. There is something profoundly personal about a book. There are editions on my shelf that are tattered and worn and I remember exactly what I was going through or what I was doing when I read it.
When my favorite author, Anne Rice, released her novel Prince Lestat, I went and scooped up the hard cover copy. Its matte black background and blood red lettering made me feel connected to the story printed within. The pages themselves were thick and and as I looked down the book at an angle I could see how the pages dipped at regular intervals. (I’m really into books ya’ll…don’t judge me) I can never get that from a eBook. It doesn’t even come close. Nothing will, as far as I can see, take the place of those beautifully bound editions of classic novels like Jane Eyre, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Grapes of Wrath. And I feel like authors such as Toni Morrison and Langston Hughes deserve to have their titles bound carefully and displayed in a manner befitting of the gravity and influence of their work.
Is print dead? Is traditional publishing dead? No. Not by a long shot. It is, however, undergoing a drastic and somewhat jarring change. There was a massive shift towards eBooks and producing them and after several years my view is that it’s starting to level off a tad. People are beginning to realize that eReaders are convenient and maybe more practical than lugging your entire Anne Rice collection around, but there is still room, and a real demand, for printed works. There are a myriad of issues that need to be tackled in order to reach a happy medium but I am confident we will see it through. My suggestion would be for authors, especially indie authors like myself, to understand the value of your work and price it accordingly. Free promos are great but we are conditioning readers to expect that books should be free. That’s a whole other issue so I will leave that for another time(tomorrow?).
Printed books also serve to keep my favorite places on earth up and running. The book store. Oh the bookstore! That haven where I can browse the stacks for hours and sip coffee and watch my kids pick out their most favorite titles. Where I, with my writer’s cap on, can write and be inspired. I remember watching Boarders go out of business and feeling like the world was changing in a way I didn’t like. Barnes & Noble seems to be weathering the storm but the real winners are Indie bookstores. Indie stores are a safe haven for printed works and if there is an indie shop in your city, support it by all means necessary. Places locally, like Tattered Cover in Denver not only keep new and used books in stock, they also allow local indie authors to showcase their work and have the unbelievable experience of seeing their book on the shelf.
There was an article in the Huffington Post recently that showed that print was steadily regaining some ground. Hopefully the future of publishing will encompass a well rounded and diverse array of options for indie and traditionally published authors alike. As for me, I will continue to stock my shelves with the titles that I love.