It’s the 21st Century, Like it or Not
Now admittedly, it’s not for everyone. But it is a legitimate and valuable tool for people who read a lot.
To all of you who say things like, “I love the feel of a book in my hands,” or “I love the smell of the paper” or “I love collecting books on my shelf,” I get it. I’m one of those people with books in every room, spilling over the shelves, tabletops, nightstands and sitting in stacks on floors. That’s not going to change just because I have a Kindle.
As a kid, I spent my summers at the library, deep in the stacks, reading my way through the teen fiction section. By middle school I’d read The Bounty Trilogy, everything by Hermon Wouk and Irving Stone, along with little 400-page books like Sybil, and 1000+ page books like Gone with the Wind (that’s all I remember about my 8th grade year). In high school I worked my way through the popular authors of the day like Stephen King, Sidney Sheldon, James Michener, James Clavell, Colleen McCullough, Irwin Shaw, even Jacqueline Susann. (Had to hide those from my mom.) I was a bookworm and preferred reading over Monopoly, The Brady Bunch or roller skating.
Can you say total nerd??? Lucky me, now I get to spend my life in the business of books… a career choice made more for love than money.
So now that I’ve demonstrated my credentials as One Who Truly Loves Books, let me say this: The book isn’t primarily about its format or method of delivery. It’s mostly about the story. The words. The content. It always has been, and always will be. (This obviously doesn’t apply to art books and cookbooks and other specialty books.)
Yesterday, Timothy Fish said this in his response to Friday’s questions: Technology will come and go, but storytelling will always be around in some form or another. Yes! Exactly.
I understand bookmaking as an art form. I love looking at a beautiful book, holding it in my hands, feeling the texture of the paper, seeing an evocative cover, marveling at creative interior design.
But when it comes down to it, for books meant to be read as opposed to looked at or written in, electronic delivery is convenient, fast, portable… and the way of the future. Once you start reading books on an electronic reader, you realize it’s the content that matters. Not the smell of the paper or the beauty of the cover.
Lately I’ve been carrying my Kindle around with me everywhere. I’ve got several manuscripts on it, and I can download books any time I want. Over the holiday I was a chain-reader. It was so fun to finish a book, click a couple of buttons to go to Amazon and find a new book, download it, and start reading it within a minute or two. So much fun! Like I have the entire bookstore in my bag.
I’m not trying to convert you. At this point, I don’t even necessarily recommend electronic readers to people who don’t have a professional use for it. They’re expensive and there are definitely still some annoying design flaws.
BUT I want to encourage you to avoid thinking of them as The Enemy. They’re going to have their place. Remember the days of 8-tracks and LPs? (I realize some of you weren’t even born then.) We’ve come a long way since then—iPods and computers and Bose music systems have revolutionized the way we purchase, store and experience music. Kindles and eReaders are simply new and exciting ways to experience books.
The publishing industry as a whole has been roundly criticized ad nauseum for being slow to embrace new technologies, new distribution methods, new economic realities. This decade long “reluctance to change” is partially responsible for problems in the industry today. Let’s not be part of that! Let’s not be called “dinosaurs” and hold back the progress of the publishing industry by our unwillingness to keep up with the times.
Way back when books went from being hand-lettered by talented scribes to being printed on a press, there were some who decried it. Yes, something was lost in the artistry with that transition. And the paper-to-electronic transition brings with it a loss, too. But words are still words. They still come together in extraordinary and wonderful ways to create stories and convey information. The delivery method is secondary. Kindles and eReaders cannot ruin good stories.
Of course, you’re going to make your own decision. I’m just asking you to consider all the angles. After all, if you’re going to be a published author, your books are going to be read electronically someday. And you wouldn’t complain about that, would you?
Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.