Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Rant: Ebook or Print?

When school starts, I won't blog nearly as much.  I'll be lucky to keep my eyes open.  BUT, I've still got several weeks of summer vacation and relative freedom left, so I figure I'll just blog about whatever pops into my whittle head, whenever.

So.  Today it's about books, ebooks, the future of writing and publishing and all that jazz, something that I PROMISED myself I wouldn't get involved in, but here we go, nonetheless.

The world's changing.  Some say for the better.  Others, the worse.  Regardless, it's changing.  It's been changing for a long time now, but it's only been the last few years (10) that things have changed enough to actually make me feel nostalgic about the past.  I blogged recently about how no one goes to the video store for obscure videos anymore, we just Netflix them.  That's sad.  Though trivial, seems like all our local gas stations have thrown over freshly made donughts for packaged danishes. Also sad.

So now, let's talk about ebooks, Ipads, and Kindle.

I'm not going to rehash all the articles that have appeared over the last year.  Type "future of books" or "future of publishing" into Google, and you'll find more articles than you need.  The basics?

1. People are reading less and less.  This has hurt sales.  Much as readers and writers alike may not want to admit, the publishing industry is like anything else: driven by profit.

2. More and more people (guilty as charged) are buying new and used books via Amazon.com, instead of going to their local Barnes & Nobles, Borders, or local Mom and Pop indie/used bookstores.  

3. The combo of 1 & 2 has put many bookstores in jeopardy, causing layoffs and closings. 

4. Major book publishers are switching to ebooks.  Let's be honest, too.  LOTS of people want them.  It's the rage.  One major book publisher - one I would've loved to submit to someday - has  ended their mass market run, and is switching to ebooks and POD trade paperbacks, which will of course limit their distribution and availability.  Like everyone else in this economy, this publisher has suffered financially, and because of this, one of their heavyweights and perhaps their best known writers has elected to stop publishing with them.

What does this mean for the future?  Who really knows.  There's the "Books are dying! This is the end!" Fahrenheit 451 crowd, there's the "Embrace the future! You're all a bunch of dinosaurs and you deserve to die out!" crowd, and those calling for common sense, "Calm down.  Ebooks are a reality.  Deal with it.  However, print books will never die.  Too many folks still want them.  Of course, they'll be in vending machines.  Bookstores, however..."

Bottom line, publishing and distribution of books is changing rapidly, and will never be the same, ever again.

I simply can't bring myself to say that this is a good thing.  Sorry.

Just can't.

Anyone who has embarked on the road to publishing and has made it a certain way can relate to the frustrating, conflicting desires to keep plugging on and to just quit.  We all feel that way.  Some days we're on top of the world, feel like the next Hemingway, King, or Rowling.  Other days we feel like talentless hacks who shouldn't quit their day jobs. BUT - that's part of being a writer.  Part of life, period.

Lately, I've thought about quitting for entirely different reasons.

Can I confess something, here?

There's one thing (excluding my family) that I love more than writing.

That's reading.  Reading BOOKS.  That's what I fell in love with, long long ago.  My desire to write stems from my love of books and reading, but books and reading came first.  Sometimes, I feel like my writing aspirations - and having to be so clued in to the latest trends in publishing because it might affect my career goals as a writer - has ruined my first love.

I mean, let's be honest.  I'm  not against ebook rights.  There'll eventually be a Kindle version of my Hiram Grange title, and I'm fine with that.  But what if publishers begin limiting their print acceptances to only sure selling successes?  What if they only offer epublishing options to folks like me?

Well, initially I'll put my head down and try harder, aim for the print goals.  Seems to be the "Lucia Way".  But in the end?

I'll quit.  Totally.

There.  I said it.

If I had a choice between writing only for epublication and not writing for publication at all...I'll take the not writing at all, thanks.  I'll pack everything in, and just read all the time again, go back to my first love, so to speak.

We're not there yet.  Thankfully.  Maybe we never will be. 

But still.

One thing I have started doing is checking my local used book stores before hitting Amazon.  If they have what I'm looking for, or if not, something just as good, I want them to get my patronage.  I want to start hunting up books from 10 years ago, and forgo a lot of the garbage published today.  Of course, this makes clear a sad truth:

I'm old.  Retro.  A throwback.  Before my time, apparently, according to our school librarian - a few years plus my senior - who consistently expresses her amazement at my staunch anti-ebook stance.

What can I say?  I fell in love with books as hard as I fell in love with my wife, and just like I'm going to always choose to stay in love with Abby - because love is a daily choice, not just a "feeling" - I'm going to always choose to stay in love with books.  They're real.  Tangible.  Have a "smell".   A historical record in fingerprint smudges, creased pages, broken spines.

Sorry.  No ebooks for this guy.

How about you?  Ebook or print forever?  Or is the argument dead and overdone already?  Comments welcome.