BTT: The Changing Book

First. Go read this great article from Time Magazine: Books Gone Wild: The Digital Age Reshapes Literature. (Well worth reading.)

Second. Stop and think about it for moment. Computers and digital media are changing everything we do these days, whether we realize it or not, and that includes our beloved books.


To be different, today, I’d love to see a discussion here, in the comments, rather than scattered amongst all our separate blogs. Because this is an issue that affects ALL of us, and I’d really like to see us hash out the merits and demerits of this evolution.

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?

I do not currently have an ebook reader and really don’t want one right now, but would be open to getting one in the future, when a greater depth of work is available.  If publishers and authors begin offering more ARCs and review copies as ebooks, I will definitely have to think about getting one, as that is where a fair number of my books come from now.  Many of the rest of my books are used, or aquired via bookmooch, and it doesn’t really seem that this model works with ebooks, although it can certainly work concurrently with them.

Even if I were to get an ereader (let’s be honest, somebody is bound to buy me one as a gift sometime in the relatively near future), it certainly would not replace my books, but simply supplement them.  Perhaps it would partially be used as my ‘backup’ books in my purse, loaded with some old favorites that can be grabbed if I, horror of horrors, finish what I’m reading and don’t have anything else with me.  I can also see it being quite useful while traveling – no need to carry 10 books with me for a week away or 4 books actually on me for the plane ‘just in case’.  The ereaders also have advantages in their backlighting abililty, which is helpful when on a darkish plane, or in trying to read at night in the car while my husband is driving.

That all being said, I cannot read ebooks now, without having an ebook reader.  Reading on my computer is no fun.

The article referenced also talked a great deal about self-publishing – far more than it did about ebooks, actually.  There are certainly a number of cases where self-publishing has led to the publishing by traditional houses of fantastic books; “The Lace Reader” is one that was referenced that I quite enjoyed.  In addition, I have read a fair number of pretty good self-published books.  Not anything that would blow me away, but things that could have just as easily come from Random House or HarperCollins.  I’ve also read some fairly atrocious self-published works and their authors (and their authors’ families) seem to be much more vicious and less able to deal with bad press on the whole than traditionally published authors.  Let me be clear that this is not the case for ALL self-published authors, but I think the nasty ones don’t make it to traditional publishing at all, probably because they wouldn’t be able to stand an editor changing/critiquing their baby.  As someone who blogs basically everything she reads, this makes me increasingly hesitant to pick up ANYTHING self-published, because I don’t want to have to deal with a whiny, angry author being vile because I did not love his baby.  Granted this is somewhat of a risk with any author, most of the examples I have seen have been self-published.

The bright spot in all of this is the reality that reading is not declining and books aren’t going anywhere.  Even if the publishing model changes drastically and even if some large publishing houses go out of business, there are already books out there making their way to readers even without the help of those houses, both digitally and in hard copy.  Viva la book!

8 comments to BTT: The Changing Book

  • I wish I could say with confidence that somebody was bound to buy me a e-reader in the future. My mom has a kindle and she loves it! She reads all of her fiction on it and all of her non-fiction as books. I don’t think books are going anywhere, but it’s nice to have the option.

  • I have a Kindle–I got it in December 2007–and I absolutely love it. It’s so easy to read on–you really do forget its a machine (unlike my iPhone which I can’t get used to reading on)–and its so easy to switch books on the go, adjust print size, and pick up a new read.

    Unfortunately though, most of what I’ve been reading recently are ARCs. I don’t have a lot of space in my house, so it’s hard to figure out what to do with the ARCs when I’m done with them. I wish publishers would make electronic ARCs available to people who have ebook readers, and I think a fair number of reviewers with ebook readers would actually prefer to get them that way (at least that’s the overwhelming opinion in the Amazon Vine community). But until that day comes I will happily read my ARCs and read my other books on my Kindle.

  • I got a Sony Reader for Christmas, and I love it. But I still love my print books, too. The ebook reader is useful for travel, for commutes, for times when you get ‘caught’ somewhere. And it’s a much lighter way to bring extra books ‘just in case’. But when I’m reading at home, I love the feeling of the paper, the weight, the cover. And I love to wander through my bookshelves looking at the spines of old favorites. So for me, it’ll never really be a replacement. But I love having the option of both!

  • I have tried reading books online, but it is very hard for me since I prefer to lay in bed while I read. It works well when I am at work and have forgotten my book at home, but I don’t like it. Hurts the neck and the eyes. I don’t know if I want an ebook reader, either, there is just something about a book that I love-the smell, the weight, the pretty shiny covers. I can see the advantage of it for travel, though.

    As far as the publishing questions, I am completely ignorant to it all. It is not something I have kept up with ccinsidering I myself am not a writer of books. I will leave that discussion up to those with more experience and knowledge.

  • 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, the whole tactile experience. No, I cannot imagine concerting my book collection to a handy gadget, that thought really bothers me. I do feel as bookish holding a gadget.

  • I enjoyed reading your take on BTT this week. I can easily see myself enjoying a Kindle but it could never ever replace a real book!! I hate reading books on my computer…not fun at all!!!

  • I’ve been wary of electronic readers like the Kindle. I had a friend show me on her iPhone all of the books she can read…I wasn’t horribly impressed. I realize the Kindle is larger and made to resemble a book in shape and size so you aren’t loosing size on text…but it just seems to be like there would be something missing.

    I have enjoyed listening to books recently although I kind of feel like I am cheating! It all started with me getting tired of hearing arguing in my minivan full of children, mostly between sisters ages 7, 6, and 5. I grabbed a set of Roald Dahl audio books and started playing them in the car. It went over so well I started going through the Lemony Snicket series. Then I decided that I might try a book for me on audio and I checked out “Inkheart.” A book that I wanted to get through, but didn’t feel like I would be missing anything by hearing rather than reading.

    I think I will continue ‘listening’ to books as well as reading them…even though I feel like I am cheating still! I might have to upgrade soon though, although my minivan is only a 2002, I have a cassette player instead of a CD player.

    Yikes! I’ve gotten off-topic as usual. Sorry!!!

  • Roberisco

    Great post, thanks for the info