|Author S.J. Bell
With the rise of e-book, some have begun to question whether we’ll have paper books for much longer. Certainly I respect the e-book and what it’s done for independent publishing. It’s allowed me to get Bonds of Fenris to its audience quickly, cheaply, and efficiently. And it’s done wonders for more established authors as well, allowing them to get their backlists to the public and providing an outlet for work that is too esoteric or controversial for major publishers. But those preaching that the era of the paper book is at an end, and starting nerdy slap-fests on the internet over this possibility, are seriously underestimating the risks inherent in an all-electronic collection.
For one thing, this new structure enforces a concentration of content. Instead of choosing one paperback off your shelves to read on a long train ride, you can bring your entire collection. Convenient, but few take heed of the other side: that dropping your device into the troublesome crack between train and platform means you’ve lost your entire collection, at least until you pay the $80 or more to replace the broken device.
I was a gamer before I was a writer, or at least before I was a professional writer, so I know a few things about purely digital content. When gamers moved from XP machines to Vista machines, and again when they moved to 64-bit OSes, many times a good portion of their games library wouldn’t follow them. Not everything is always backwards-compatible. That may not seem significant now, but software is constantly changing. There’s a good possibility that at some point in the future, you’ll upgrade to a newer device and find that a chunk of your e-books now look horrible, or just plain don’t work.
There’s also the issue of ownership to consider. A few years back, Amazon got in legal hot water by offering the works of George Orwell in digital format without acquiring the rights properly. Their response? Delete the books from everyone’s Kindle and issue a refund. As you can imagine, it brought down quite a bit of righteous fury. But this is the way digital content works. You’re not buying an item or object. What you’re buying is access. That’s why you can re-download items from a lost or misplaced Kindle with no problems. But it also means you have little control of the state of things in your library. If, for whatever reasons, the distributor wants to remove a book from circulation, he can. Or if, for example, your favorite author decides that Greedo Shot First or some equivalent and updates his book to reflect that, you may be stuck with the new version.
Even the benefits of e-books come with caveats. Wi-Fi, for example, allows for fast downloading of content, but anything that’s wired can potentially be hacked. Depending on what e-readers of the future are like, this could merely mean a hacker gets access to your library. Or it could mean he gets your Amazon account information and/or credit card info. Even if all he gets is your books, the way he gets them could be enough for the powers that be to flag you a pirate and shut down your account. Such things can be prevented with security updates. But while security updates are a good thing, they have problems of their own. Long-time IT pros could tell horror stories about Windows updates that have crashed systems and created more problems than they solved.
Paper has at least two advantages that e-books will never have: permanence and low maintenance. When you buy a book, all you have to do is keep it protected, and it will last you for the rest of your life. Or at least until it wears out from repeated reading. You don’t have to worry about your battery dying on the penultimate page of a mystery novel, you don’t have to worry about your library being deleted by misadventure or malice, and you don’t have to worry about format obsolescence. You own a physical object which you can make full use of using nothing but your eyes and hands. There’s a reason that, even in the age of document scanning and advanced data storage solutions, a lot of libraries and museums still keep archives on microfilm. You don’t need a lot to read microfilm– just a light source and sufficient magnification. If you really, really needed to, you could probably read microfilm with Stone Age technology. You can read a book with even less.
I am certainly no Luddite, and I agree that e-books are a boon to both authors and readers of tomorrow. Certainly, I personally have benefitted quite nicely from e-publishing. But I’m also looking forward to the day I’ll have my books in print. Those who are tearing down their bookshelves in favor of their Kindles and iPads need to keep in mind that the humble board-and-paper codex is still worthwhile
. It has served the majority of our information storage needs for well over a thousand years, and even thirty-some years into the information age there are good practical reasons for it to still be in use. A book is yours.
You don’t have to worry about losing your library to some random database snafu with a distributor, or some thuggish piece of DRM software getting uppity because you transferred a few things from an obsolete reader. The book is yours to own, and tangibility still has value.
I loved it when he said, “A book is yours.” Isn’t that true? I have a Kindle and an iPad but I still prefer the HARDBACKs and PAPERBACKs. It’s so much nicer to see them on the shelves… And honestly, I like their smell too! *wink
If you haven’t heard about S.J. Bell’s upcoming Urban Fantasy Novel BONDS OF FENRIS, it’s time to check it out. Here’s the stunning cover and blurb. Don’t forget to add it on your TBR!
Talia Thornwood’s life ended one year ago, when she became a werewolf. She survived the attack, and the horrifying transformation a month later, but the life she has now is barely worth living. She lurks about in a filthy, run-down house, with too many werewolves crammed into too small a space. Every day is a struggle against the stress of human contact, the romantic prodding of her obnoxious packmate Pierce, and the gnawing hunger for flesh in her soul.
She’s all but resigned herself to a dreary existence on the margins of society when she meets Corwin. Corwin is a werewolf like none other. He walks among humans as if it was nothing, and can keep his wolf under control even when the moon is full. Talia’s mind is suddenly opened to the possibilities before her, and the realization of how little she really knows about lycanthropy.
Corwin claims that he can teach her how to cope as he does, even how to transcend her affliction. But it will not be easy. It is a hard education that requires her to question everything her pack taught her, and confront exactly what she has become. And, more amazingly, what she never stopped being.
About the Author:
S.J. Bell, AKA LupLun, has a lifelong love of stories in all their myriad forms. In junior high, he used to stay up until 10 P.M. reading cheesey science-fiction novels. In high school, he was a Squaresoft fan and Babylon 5 junkie. In college, he studied English Literature and argued on the internet about the relative quality of anime dubs. Today, he lives on Long Island and attempts to write for a living. He spends his spare time reading and blogging about werewolves, watching movies with his girlfriend, and playing board games. He plays a poor game of Agricola, but a very good game of Innovation.
*Thank you for the great post Mr. S.J. Bell. I am honored to have you in my blog.*