Wednesday, June 3, 2009

E-books and Kindles and iPhones, Oh My!

Publishing, as I am constantly reminded, is not what it used to be. The little bookstore around the corner is on credit hold. Borders is clinging to life. Publishers keep merging into one another, turning into huge megacorporations. Celebrity author advances grow and grow, and revenues shrink . . . but to me the most alarming thing about publishing now is that future generations might not ever hold an actual book in their hands.

I confess that I was always a passionate reader from grade school onward; I once spent an entire summer (at age 15) reading paperback romance novels, nothing but. I know every euphemism ever created for the spicier parts of male and female anatomy. The summer after I graduated from college, I read every "classic" I felt I should have read up to that point; every Bronte, every Eliot (George and T. S.), most of Dickens. My son just got his reading list for his new (and much more academically strict) middle school. Some familiar titles are on that list: Fahrenheit 451, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Holes, and The Rescuers. Despite my romantic notion that we'd spend our weekends and summer evenings reading together, he's downloading some of these books onto his iPod Touch to use it as an e-reader.

I can't tell you why I felt a little disappointed about this, but I think it's because for me it wasn't just the words that enthralled me when I read; it was the weight of the book, the smooth jacket of the hardcover novels I'd get from the library, or the dog-eared flimsiness of those paperback romances that were stained with suntan oil (this was when it was okay to get a suntan) and ketchup from the fries I'd eat at the swimming pool with my book in tow. I'm afraid that reading books electronically will somehow diminish their pleasure and their influence. I'm all for saving trees, but nothing is more pleasurable than the smell of a new book or the funkiness of a much-borrowed tome that finally lands back in your lap.

I'm allowing a tiny bit of publishing's forward motion into our house . . . as my son and I will indeed spend our evenings and weekends reading together, with him pushing tiny buttons to turn pages and me nodding over a well-thumbed Storey "classic" I go back to again and again: The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques. Much like that summer after college, I'm going to spend my time these days perfecting my stranded knitting technique, and that's a classic that I will hold in my hands, always.

Amy Greeman, Storey Publicity Director

1 comment:

Sue Weaver said...

Amy, I agree 100% about 'real' books! A book must be, well, a BOOK. I'm so glad someone else feels this way.