fickle me, falling for the new

image by engine room blog via flickr
I’ve noticed the tide turning when it comes to ebooks.

E-books used to—at least to most publishers and booksellers, authors and readers whose DNA contains code for papyrus and printer’s ink—be the equivalent of the brown marmorated stink bug. They appeared out of nowhere and overnight they were everywhere. Panic ensued. Some predicted the apocalypse, the end of reading, the death of intellectual thought and creativity. Many people outright refused to even touch an e-reader as if touching one just once would give them the plague.

Other more moderate types (like me), dipped our feet in the ebook waters and found it quite lovely right from the start. I loved the way I could hear of a book, think of a book, buy a book, all in moments and from my bed at 2 a.m. My ipad fit so perfectly on my treadmill or on my lap as I lay in bed, in my bag when I travel. I loved how I could seize the moment when I had the ear of my littlest one, talking of a book, and within moments see her curled up reading it on her nook.

Nonetheless, I felt guilty when I didn’t buy from my local bookseller, feeling that I was robbing them of the income they deserved and needed far more than amazon or b&n or apple (well, forget that last one, I always love to support apple). I worried about the good people I knew when I was in publishing, the families who depend on the printing press as a source of pride and income for their families, and I worried that my children’s children might never know the tactile frisson of pleasure of holding a book, of tracing its spine and admiring how it looked tucked on a shelf, or lain seemingly nonchalantly on a bedside table. I remembered with wistfulness that moment when someone new came over and perused my shelves, knowing that they might see me in the way I’d hoped, certain that what was up on that shelf was a window into my heart and soul.

image by priscilla tonon via flickr
The tides have turned. Hope is once again alive. The publishers are prospering, the well-loved independent bookstores are finding their value has actually increased to those of use who trust them to curate for us, to pick from the sea of books the ones worth reading, to invite us in to peruse, to discuss, to find others like us.

The data has it that people who buy books—at least for now—buy them in all forms. There is a new appreciation for the book as a work of art, as a luxury item. I imagine that the paradigm will change a thousand times before it settles, but for now it seems readers make choices, that print is not yet dead and most likely never will be. I imagine I will always have books on my shelves, beloved books, but the rest will be tucked into my ipad, or my kindle, or my iphone (I actually discovered that it’s kind of nice to read from it…and convenient!). Today I bought an ebook, and called my local bookstore to have them hold a book for me which I’ll pick up tomorrow. (I make it sound like my book budget is endless, it is not, and actually quite tight these days… I’m loving my local library which feeds my hunger for both printed books and e-books!)

But, lest I forget the title of this post… I am fickle, oh so fickle. While I was often reading more than one book at a time, I now find myself dropping a book like that when a new one comes along. The physical reminder (whispering “come back to me, come back!”, or “you’re almost half-way through!”) is no longer there so it becomes all too easy to hop to the new shiny sample or recently purchased book, and then—gasp—to forget to go back. It means, perhaps, that in the end I read more, and of an even greater variety, but in a far less linear way.

I use goodreads.com not to share my reading list (I still find that far too personal, for some reason, to share with anyone at all), but to keep track of what I have and where, separating out by format as well as read/unread and have or to buy.

So many books, so little time. So many formats but in the end what matters is what is within, the written word… the rest will sort itself out.

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8 thoughts on “fickle me, falling for the new

  1. How eloquently you describe my very own feeling, thoughts and activities! I feel the same and do the same. I have print books still, of course, but I love the immediate gratification of being able to download an ebook the moment I hear about it and decide I must read it. NOW, after reading this, I realize I am not alone in not finishing my books though! I am currently reading three and am feeling quite anxious about finishing at least one. I do want to, I just get side-tracked.

    I love how you said the paradigm will shit many times before it settles. The verdict is not completely in about preferences and what will happen, but I tend to agree with you that there is room for both ebooks and print books. Hooray!

    Great post!

  2. How ironic. Today, after spending an hour reading from a screen, I did a search for “books” on pinterest.com and drooled for about the same amount of time – at pictures of books – on bookshelves. Such beauty! I miss that! (And, now, sigh, it exists, at least on that level, only on my screen!)

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