Thursday, January 29, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Electronic vs Paper

This week we were asked to leave comments on the BTT site rather than a simple link to our blog posts. Well, being naturally contrary, I'm opting out of that request. But it's an interesting subject, so I'm having a go anyway. First, we're asked to go read a Time Magazine article on electronic publishing; then, the topic:
Computers and digital media are changing everything we do these days, whether we realize it or not, and that includes our beloved books.

Tell us what you think. Do you have an ebook reader? Do you read ebooks on your computer? Do you hate the very thought? How do you feel about the fact that book publishing is changing and facing much the same existential dilemma as the music industry upon the creation of MP3s?
So Time Magazine is just now getting the word that digital publishing is the big new thing. That's why I don't read Time Magazine anymore. Oops. That was snarky, wasn't it? Sorry.

I guess I'm definitely a paper person – I'd much rather read a "real" book than an e-book. I love books as objects – always have. I like reading them, but I also like the way they feel when I hold them in my hand, and the way they look when they're arranged on my shelves, and even the way the paper and ink smell. As John Updike said, I love "the smell of glue and the shiny look of the jacket and the type."

But times and things change. I can see that digital publishing is obviously the way of the future. I don't have an e-book reader, but I confess to downloading a few texts from the Gutenberg Project to read on my computer. I can understand the attractions of the Kindle and its ilk, and I realize that any fight against them is probably a losing battle. But I doubt that I'll be acquiring one anytime soon.

Now about this whole "self-publishing" concept – well, that's much too involved to get into in a "comment." And I don't know that I really have much of an opinion on it anyway. But I don't really see that going digital is going to make all that much difference – after all, people have been self-publishing for centuries. And sometimes that's a bad thing, but sometimes it's a good thing. Years ago, I used to edit a poetry magazine, and consequently received massive quantities of "self-published" books (what used to be called vanity press books). And most of them, quite frankly, were dreck. But every now and then I'd come across a tiny jewel amidst the sea of unreadable nonsense. And I think the digital self-publishing phenomenon is not too different, really – except, of course, there's no formal editing process to weed out the stinkers!

Oh, and here, as promised, is my gratuitous photo of the day – a portrait of that great self-publisher Thomas Paine, whose birthday is today (born January 29, 1737).
Source: Wikipedia Commons


  1. I want to go back to the good old BTT days when the questions were easier for me to answer. I don't want to discuss things in the comment section over at Deb's place.

    But, I'm sticking with books!

  2. Well, I know very little (read: NOthing) about the publishing industry, but I agree that I don't think it matters (to *me*) much...and I couldn't agree MORE about the ebook readers (including the fact that I don't see myself with one any time soon)...

    Have a great weekend, and thanks for droppin' by my site!

  3. Hey, I didn't know it was Thomas Paine's b-day today! Happy birthday, Mr. Common Sense.

    I enjoyed this post. I used to teach freshman writing, so I sympathize when I read about the seas of "unreadable nonsense" you waded through as an editor!

  4. I'm a paper person as well. E-readers like Kindle would be especially useful and convenient for business travelers and moms traveling with kids. They don’t have to worry about lugging books around and paying extra for baggage. I’m glad there are more choices for readers but for me, I like the feeling of having an actual book. I like the tactile experience of holding a book and I enjoy the smell of the pages. No, I cannot imagine concerting my book collection to a handy gadget, that thought really bothers me.

  5. book person here too! couldn't agree more with your thoughts!

    thanks for dropping by!

  6. Love my books and always will but I can see the allure of the kindle especially to the hip, younger crowd!! which obviously does not include me!!LOL!!

    Happy Birthday Thomas!! I'm going to have a drink in his honor :)


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