Is it just me, or have you noticed that there are some bookish types who like to pit electronic against paper as if it’s an either/or proposition? And have you also noticed that more often than not, discussions about utilizing new publishing technologies, quickly become polarizing arguments where one must supposedly choose: paper or plastic? Consider, for example, the Green Apple Bookstore videos poking fun at the Kindle — funny? Yes. silly? Yes. But, many a truth is said in jest, and a lot of people seem to think digital means the demise of the paper book.
I just want to say, for the record that: e- does not stand for “evil.”
Nor does it stand for “enemy.”
For anyone intent on finding enemies of the book, they need look no further than the traditional publishing model which goes something like this: Over-saturate market with hundreds of thousands of titles printed in paper, a few of which will be blockbusters, the rest of which will be returned to publishers. Repeat (until the money runs out).
You know that place where there are lots and lots of unsold, unread paper books, and lots and lots of out-of-work book industry folks? We’re so there.
So, why demonize digital when digital appears to be a really viable part of the solution? And why suggest that any one format will ever be the solution? The way I see it, the only real solution is to have many solutions all working simultaneously to make available a diversity of content, a diversity of distribution alternatives, a diversity of formats and pricing, and even a diversity of features. Oh, and paper books are a part of this many-solution solution.
This same many-solution solution is a solution where publishers print POD if conditions call for it; gigantic print runs should that make sense; and lovely gorgeous full color hardbound books with gilded edges if that’s what the market demands — Yup, all of these options are part of the solution.
Paper is fabulous. Lots of people love it. Some swear by it. Heck, some of my best friends even sell paper (@permanentpaper).
Other readers love reading on plastic, and will have it no other way. Though, even they can not agree with one another on the best format or delivery mechanism for their electronic literature.
Many of us like to read different ways at different times. Sometimes we find it most pleasurable to read paper books– all manner of paper books: board books, pop-up books, mass market, hard cover, picture books, trade paper, (why, I’ve been known to read cereal boxes and I don’t see those going e- any time soon) — and sometimes we like to read ebooks – we will read them in a car, we will read them at the bar. We will read them on a Kindle, on a nook, on our computers, on our iphones, on our Play Stations — no doubt someone somewhere right this second is reading an ebook on their television.
And that’s okay. You see, one need not eschew the hand bound letter press book in order to enjoy a digitally delivered novella via their iphone. Theoretically, we can have it all.
Consider Follow the Reader’s sponsor, NetGalley. NetGalley allows professional readers and industry folks to read the book in digital form, prior to its paper debut, thus saving the costs – both financial and envirornmental, that would otherwise be spent on printed ARCs, galleys, and BLADs. For those reviewers who prefer the printed version of an ARC, publishers can offer that via NetGalley, as well. In this case, the e-option can work beautifully alongside the printed paper book. Everyone goes home a winner. And that’s just one example where a digital version of a book is not necessarily a substitute for a finished paper book, but offers an alternative solution for the reader’s specific needs or preferences.
So, stop worrying about the death of paper books. Digital doesn’t mean the end of paper. It just means more opportunities for more readers to read “books” in the ways that are best suited to them. And, by the way, I know I’m far from alone in believing the form of a book should fit its purpose and/or a reader’s preferences, and that there’s room for all kinds of books to live together peacefully.
Because, a book by any other name is just as sweet.