Thursday, March 11, 2010

To Download or Not to Download

So, I've been asked to write a review of two novels for a nice, fancy magazine.  I've decided to read one of them the old fashioned way (a galley) and one of them on my eReader (Kindle) just to see if I can find any qualitative difference in the experience.  For the most part, the old fashioned way is much more pleasant because it's familiar and brings back happy memories.  It doesn't help at all that the stupid Kindle keeps freezing, and I have to dig through a drawer to find a paperclip, pull it apart and jam it in the reset, every ten pages.  I finally figured out if I kept it super-charged and dumped some of the older ebooks off the thing, to free up the memory, it wouldn't freeze quite as often.  That seemed to help, though it still crashes.
    In truth, though, the novel I'm reading on the eReader has a much bigger scope and tackles more compelling questions on the whole than the book I read on paper, which is to say, it's still the story, the sweeping away of reality, the feeling of being an outsider on page one and slowly sinking into the middle of a new world, that wins the day. (Maybe I jumped the gun when I proclaimed fiction dead. Maybe it's the old way of selling books that's dead; writing them beautifully persists. Maybe the industry will just have to adjust, the way the music industry did.  It's too bad that writers can't go on world tours the way rock stars can to recoup the loss in book/CD sales, now downloadable on the cheap.)
     From this reader's library chair, the form of the book is fairly neutral; perhaps one is slightly more annoying and the other more pleasurably familiar, but still a book is a book is a book is an ebook.
    Electronic books tip the scales slightly for me: a smaller impact on the environment and the wallet, though I realize this is what's killing the business as we know it.  Maybe it's time for the beast to die and rise up as something more reasonable. God knows the blockbuster model has done nothing for me. I am confirmed in my opinion that the bookness of the experience comes through without the paper.
    The world is a-changing, mice.  Think of that.  We are in the middle of the seachange, some of us swimming with the tide; some of us against. That's my report anyway. The extra good news is that both books were very successful, enjoyable, and well done. One of them even seems important.


The Very Minor Writer said...

I like the idea of e-books, e-readers, etc. but it still seems to me the best marketing of books and magazines has always been the cover of the book or magazine itself sitting in the book store or on the newstand. brand name authors and certain titles barely need this marketing anymore, but what about new authors, titles? publishers aren't going to spend their savings on marketing these titles, that is going to more profit. so we will be left with even more of a mono-culture than what we have now.

Writer, Rejected said...

True dat