For me, e-books will never replace a regular, paper book. I’m still one of those people who enjoy the tactile pleasure of handling my reading material. The newer generations, people argue, grew up reading off a computer screen and it’s estimated that the iPad has surpassed both the Nook and Kindle as the preferred method of reading a book. There’s a lot to be said for this argument. I have a Kindle and I do enjoy taking it with me when I’m traveling. The convenience of packing the relatively small device in my carry-on luggage sure beats trying to cram about four or five regular books in there. But reading it isn’t quite the same. I find I tend to read faster (spelled SKIMMING) when I use the Kindle. It’s like I’m preprogrammed to get through the book in a hurry. And why, when you think about it, would you want to do that? It’s like sitting down for a fine meal and stuffing piece after piece of food in your mouth without taking the time to taste and appreciate any of it. Plus, when I’m reading a book, and I want to go back and check something in a previous chapter, I can do that easily. With the Kindle this is an exercise in frustration, backtracking through page after page until the particular passage is located. (I know you can bookmark certain pages, but what if you don’t know you will be referring back to that particular page at a later time?)
I’ve gotten pretty far off track on this one, haven’t I?
Well, let’s steer back toward the middle. Self-publishing seems like it was designed with electronic books in mind. Traditionally, one of the major pitfalls of self-publishing in regular book form was the cost. You not only had to pay for printing and shipping, you had to worry about storage and promotion, not to mention trying to get a bookstore to carry your self-published work. With the advent of the e-book, people are circumventing these old problems and promoting themselves through social media. But one of the big problems that seems to be arising is that of quality control. A lot of the self-published books, I’ve been told, are in dire need of a better editing job. While this is probably not true of a lot of self-published e-books, we should be cognizant that the tedious jobs those copy editors used to do went largely unappreciated until this recent surge in electronic self-publishing. Certainly it could also be argued that quality control was an issue with self-published print books as well.
The other side of the coin is that e-publishing has opened up a lot of markets for previously unpublished writers. Where small press was once the place to gain experience and get publishing credits, now aspiring writers surf to the web for opportunities. But this is also making it harder to get paid for your writing. Don’t even get me started on the e-book piracy issue. Why buy a book when you can steal it for free and give it to your friends?
So is it any wonder that I sometimes sit and stare wistfully out the window, longing for the old days when I looked forward to a pleasurable trip to the bookstore to peruse the latest array of hardcovers, paperbacks, and magazines? My inner voice keeps telling me that books will always be with us, self-published or not, and that I shouldn’t be overly concerned about this whole e-book thing. I mean, look how great the digital revolution has turned out for the record industry . . . those old vinyl albums are worth a fortune if you can find a buyer on e-bay.