If you have been following the e-book saga at all, you know that is chock full of good vs evil, doomsday proclamations and if you sift through the traffic, insightful and educated analyses.
I tend to be in the camp that thinks we should be educating the public about these issues. I don’t really want to damper people’s joy over their e-reader by educating them about the jockeying for position that is going on right now and what it might mean for the future of publishing and our ability to have access to the reading materials we enjoy. I actually don’t have the energy for all of that; but, I think whenever you spend money it’s important to take a second and understand where it’s going.
Every reader, whether you read print or digital books, should read this blog post from IPG (Independent Publishers Group). When my Kindle loving friend said e-books should be cheaper because they don’t have to print them, I tried to explain the situation. Now I can send her this link. When my friend asked me if I was going to quit my job if I get my YA novel published, I tried to explain to her the situation. Now I can send her this link.
The book industry is in the middle of a period of growing pains. Remember when we were in school and we learned about the Industrial Revolution and all the change it brought. We are in the middle of an Information Revolution. It would be interesting to know what people say about this time 100 or 200 years from now. Unfortunately, we don’t have a time machine.
What we need is a voice of reason. A voice that is not motivated by greed. A voice that is not motivated by fear. A voice that represents the greatest good and not narrow self interests. A voice that represents the readers. If we had a leader with such reason, the authors would be happy. The publishers would be happy. The booksellers would be happy. The librarians would be happy.
I think that voice of reason should come from libraries. We are readers and we represent readers; we always have. I applaud all the librarians doing good work on this issue because we need a seat at the table.
I don’t own an e-reader because it’s not a good fit for me. I prefer not to engage with any more screens. And to be honest, I’m not a voracious reader of books right now. I’m lucky if I read one every 6 weeks. Plus, I mostly read library books. When I do purchase books, I have made a commitment to give my money to independent bookstores because I have easy access to them now. I literally live down the street from Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. When I lived in NJ and did not live near any small booksellers, I tended to order online from Powells (my ex-employer who I feel loyal to) or go to the nearby Borders (also my ex-employer) because I spent so many hours there browsing and reading without purchasing that I felt it necessary to support them.
If I did consider purchasing an e-reader, I’d take pause before buying a Kindle. There are tons of benefits to buying a Kindle; but, Amazon is being a bully right now. I understand business competition and the bottom line and all of that; but, Amazon has been playing dirty (in the book wars) in a way that I’m not really willing to support at the moment. Their “lending library” for Prime members caused a few raised eyebrows as did their Christmas shopping app that would give you a discount if you scanned a book’s barcode (say…at a brick and mortar bookstore) and then bought it online at Amazon. Really? I wonder if the business generated by that outweighed the disgust because I, as an Amazon customer, felt some hate on hearing about that one. I made sure to buy all my Christmas gift books at Greenlight, excepting one I bought at McNally Jackson. (Did you know that you can support independent bookstores by purchasing e-books from their websites?)
And what about the publishers who refuse to work with libraries for e-book lending? See, it’s getting murkier. Do you boycott them? Do you wait all of this mess out before purchasing an e-reader? I don’t really know. I do know, that as readers and librarians, we should be aware of where our money goes and what it goes to support.
Last night I told my partner about an experience I had this week: I was reading a magazine or a blog (can’t remember where I saw it) and came across an article about small farms. The photo at the top of the article was a close up of a pig’s face. The photo was taken in a way that seemed to capture the character of the pig in a way that gave me great pause. I thought, if met this pig would I be able to then eat bacon? There was just something about this pig’s face that touched me. Anya said, “But bacon is so good.” I know. Bacon is yummy; but, to eat the bacon without acknowledging that a creature died in order for me to have bacon, seems wrong. It’s not that I haven’t thought of this before or that I am vegetarian. But, as an eater of pig on occasion, it’s important for me to be present, completely, in the decision to eat meat. It’s something I struggle with.
Obviously the decision to eat meat or not is different than navigating the book business; but, I think that there should be more thoughtfulness in our decision making, even if it means we are inconvenienced.
For further reading on the subject: