Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ebooks and Me

Advancing technology is spurring on the electronic everything revolution. My office is going paper-lite, we are developing electronic methods for just about all our needs. We have common network folders, desktop sharing software, LCD projectors in every conference room, dual monitor setups at most workstations. I can see anything I need to on my computer. So, I really notice when I go to click on the print button. And every time, I stop to think, do I need this in my hands? There are times when I say yes, like when I need to write on it or proofread it. But how will I make that distinction with novels in the coming future?

A few things come instantly to mind:
• How much do I like the author--is it signed?
• How much shelf space do I have?
• Was there a really good sale?

My first reaction to ebooks, a few years ago, was distaste. I didn’t like them because they aren’t my beloved paper pieces of art. These newfangled things were kinda hard to find. Amazon was just about the only place to get them and barely anyone had their novels produced electronically. And those readers were way too much for me to even think about buying. I was in grad school, by the way. Ebooks were for gadget geeks and technophiles. But, oh, how times change. There are so many more shades of gray in this image now.

My opinion of books has changed though, as I’m sure it has for many people. When I think of books, I think of two separate things. A stack of bound paper that either smells like printer ink or “used book store.” I can put a paperback in my coat pocket, or slip a hardcover in my bag or display the spine on my shelf. And they are also a new industry for text in various file formats with all kinds of metadata. To me e-books aren’t so much “books” as a concept. Yet in the end you get the same thing out of either style of published material. You read the words and react emotionally and intellectually to them. That’s pretty much what we’re reading for to begin with.

So you get the same thing out of both formats…

The prices of ereaders are dropping and Amazon and other companies are making it ever so much easier to get your hands on and read ebooks. You don’t even need an ebook reader anymore; you can read any ebook file between your computer, smart phone or PDA.

And technology isn’t an issue when it comes to jumping on the ebook bandwagon…

I confess, I have not yet read an ebook, but I know it will happen soon. I’ve been tipped off on some good open source software called Calibre. I’ve been playing with it and checking out its features a little in my spare time (I’ll post about it when I feel I’ve put it through its paces). Thanks to Baen’s Free Library and Project Gutenberg, I have a few e-books sitting on my hard drive. So when I’m done with my next few reading commitments I’m going to give the ereader a try.

Will I ever buy another bound book after that?

Books may soon be like antiques--those nice bits of furniture in your parent’s houses. Because in your house, all you have is your stack of electronic devices and self-assembled, particle board furniture from Walmart or Target. Well, I lust after those antique furniture pieces, but I don’t buy them. They are a luxury item. Same goes for books. I’ve always been more of a library-goer than book-buyer. So I don’t do my share to support the production of paper books. But I think that a nice spine on my shelf will always have a special place in my heart--even if I store most of my new $2 or $3 dollar books on my terabyte hard drive.