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!