I like books, I like buying books, I like reading books and I like to keep hold of books to re-read or share with friends. Some of you may know me as a one-time lurker on alt.fan.pratchett, a subscriber to the Feistfans mailing list, the person who coughed up for O’Reilly Safari Online Bookshelf when it first came out, and the person who has 3 times the number of books in storage as he has out on bookshelves at home (and we have a fair few bookshelves in our house.
So it sometimes comes as a surprise to me that people only think I have manuals, or prefer to have my fiction as bite size chunks through podcasts or similar.
Ok, fair point, I do have manuals (and I promise to tidy up the shelves and my desk space to make it all presentable one day) and I do subscribe to podcasts and vodcasts … but I also love audio books … and full length feature films … but most of all I love losing myself in a good book.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very excited about the future that will be the iPad, and I am eager to see which publishers / authors will have books ready to go onto it when it is available in the UK. I do use a number of digital devices to read eBooks as it is. My Dell Axim 51v is still full of books for Microsoft Reader. It is compact, has a bright screen and allows be to have a book open for some easy reference. Some of these I have moved over to my work phone, an XDA (still running windows mobile 5 … but that is another story!). My Sony Ericsson P800 has a number of books (.txt format) mainly because it was my first smartphone and simple to use. My main device at the moment is my iPhone. I love the classic books app, have a few comics on there, a few eBooks, but mainly use Stanza to transfer books and documents into a readable format … and I can only see it getting better with the iPad … but partly because I will be reminiscing about the old Acer Travelmate 342T which was fantastically light, had an external optical drive and allowed me to turn it on its side to read it as if it was a book (admittedly with only one page showing and the other page a keyboard) … and this will be as close as I am going to get to what I really like.
I like a book. A real book, made with paper, a decent binding, that lovely heavy smell of ink on paper. I prefer hardback books but still have some of my paperbacks I started buying for myself when I was 13/14.
The advent of eBooks has meant one thing to me and one thing only … it is just another one of many ways I will read. News websites didn’t stop me buying papers … stupid editorials did that. A change in artists didn’t stop me buying comics … I was just happier to wait until collected editions came out and I could read a complete story. Audio books didn’t stop me buying paperbacks … it just allowed me to listen on the way to work. eBooks will not stop me from buying a hardcopy, but I will look out for deals where it allows me to have both … the same way I look for DVDs with the soundtrack as an extra, or Games that come with a t-shirt …
What do I think it will do for others? Well, the introduction of eBooks with DRM means that you will not be able to pass them on to others, so the second-hand market takes a hit. A shame as this is where I used to get a lot of my books and is a fantastic way to get into certain genres. A good book reseller (even a second-hand stall) will know its regulars and give good advice, introduce different authors, help source hard to find material … even big chains like Waterstones can offer some of this.
The idea that uni students can sell back some of their old books may be gone. Actually, in one blog I read they whole idea of having only a single ebook open at a time was questioned and i fully agree. Even if you look at the nirvana of Star Trek … with those funky little pads people had … they would have 3 or 4 when they had to deal with a difficult project, and is that so different to the student with a selection of texts open on their desk / their bed / the bar? Actually … that is one reason why I still have a number of option for reader digital information. In fact as I sit here I have two open next to me … one with a text draft of this post and another with an article about iPads.
But then we get to why are we still using books anyway? Surely the written story is old hat? People want shorter and more direct information. The über-long film has made way for the soap opera (tell that to Messrs Jackson and Cameron), the news documentary for the ‘headlines’ in 60 seconds (Dispatches and Horizon are so wrong!) and the concept album makes way for the 2 minute pop ditty (Gorillaz and Lady GaGa will never get any awards if they insist on bucking this trend).
No, the book is here to stay … it may have to adapt, it may have to do a bit more marketing, but it can compliment and will be complimented by other forms out there.
What has sparked this off? One of the mailing lists I subscribe to (Feistfans mentioned above) had an email where the following video from DK was highlighted. It made me smile … and although it is from a publisher the emails from fellow book fans (and Raymond Feist himself) gives me hope that many others feel the same.