We duke it out, Lucha Libre style, over the future of the book. This will probably become a series of posts, so stay tuned!
- Jenn's take: THE BOOK IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE BOOK
- Emily's take: The Book is NOT Dead, Especially if Digital = Medium, not Format
THE BOOK IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE BOOK - Jenn @ TKE
I've been agitating since early this year for the death of the book. Well, ok, not really. Actually, what happened is this: the giant stack of ARCs behind my desk fell on me. Again. Which (possibly because of the ensuing brain damage) led me to believe that digital ARCs were the answer to all of our problems. Instant distribution! No shipping costs! Save some trees! And most importantly, no giant stacks to fall on bookseller heads.
Which then begged the question, how would I read them? I don't know about you, but reading on a laptop or a computer is one of the things I am least interested in in life, a close second to anchovies on pizza. But alas, I'm a poor bookseller, and cannot afford spiffy techno-thingies that cost several hundred dollars and don't even have a WiFi connection. So my next brain child (see brain damage above) was that publishers should buy booksellers eReaders (not Kindles, but really anything else would be fine). It would probably save them money in the long run (Instant distribution! No shipping costs! Save some trees!) and if a publisher would actually buy me one, I'd promise to read their books first. Or something like that.
Turns out publishers don't feel like buying booksellers eReaders. Who'd'a thunkit? It also turned out a lot of publishers don't want to send me digiARCs, for fear that I will put them on the Internet and then the author will feel violated and never write again and no one will buy the book and it will have been all my fault, lions and tigers and bears oh my! Or at least that's my guess as to why they don't want to send digiARCs. And yeah, I can kind of understand. But wait, what happened to my brilliant (brain-damage-induced) plan?
So my solution: I bought myself an iPod Touch (WiFi! Email! Fun games! No monthly service fee! Oh yeah, and it can be an eReader too!) and signed up for NetGalley (which has an amazing number of good books on it, yours for the asking). Hey presto! I was reading digiARCs on my very own eReader. Is the experience all its cracked up to be? Surprisingly, the answer is a resounding yes. There are some snafus in actually getting the ARCs onto the iPod, but once they're there, the reading experience is great. So far, it matches actual books for visibility (you can see the screen in direct sunlight quite clearly, schockingly enough) and you can carry around, well, a bajillion times more ARCs with you than if they were regular ARCs. And then, after I've emailed my review in to the publisher, I can make a monkey pop balloons with darts.
The moral of the story? DigiARCs won't fall on your head and are fun to read, an iPod Touch is a great investment, and pizza is better without anchovies.
The Book is NOT Dead, Especially if Digital = Medium, not Format - Emily Pullen, Skylight Books (for her full review of Asterios Polyp, visit the Skylight Blog)
[After reading Asterios Polyp,] I realized that this kind of pleasure will never be had with a Kindle, a Sony Reader, or any other sort of digital reading device. Technologically, they can't do it, and even if they could do color, it wouldn't be the same. This is why I don't fear the death of the book. And this is why I think that publishers who are going gaga over digitizing everything are taking the wrong approach. I think digitizing is useful, but it shouldn't supersede The Book. Nick Harkaway posted some very interesting thoughts about this on his (fabulously designed) blog this week.
Bear with me here. I think that it is absolutely right that we talk about comics as a medium, as Scott McCloud and others have taught us to. But why aren't we thinking about digital in the same way, as a medium, rather than a format? Reading Asterios Polyp reminded me that the graphic medium can accomplish things in a novel that the written word cannot. Similarly, I'm sure that the digital medium could accomplish things in a novel that graphics or the written word could not, and THAT is where its innovation and interest lies for me. Not in its ability to replicate exactly what I might get in a book. And yet, that seems to be what developers of devices and digital formats are striving for at this point. They have yet to examine its possibilities as a medium.
To me, a Kindle or an eReader is a content storage device, not a book. It is mighty convenient for people who travel a lot or who have too many books or who deal in manuscripts on a regular basis. Forgot a book? Whip out your iPhone, it's so easy! But Asterios Polyp could not exist on any of these devices, and a child will never gleefully unwrap several of these devices at a birthday party, and rarely will someone have occasion to scan your device and glean something about your character. Devices are convenient, but they are not the be-all and end-all. Don't scrap your printing budgets just yet.