Thursday, November 22, 2007

RIP, Real Books

Are books set to go the way of vinyl, cassettes, videos and cameras using film?
I first asked this question here in June 2006.

But things move fast in the digital age and the technology has advanced still further this week with the launch in the US of the Kindle.

There are of course major environmental costs associated with the every stage of the production of Real Books - from the conversion of trees to paper through the printing process, distribution, storage ...

So should we welcome this new development?

There can be no doubt it would make environmental sense.
And at $399 for the reader, books costing a mere $9.99 and 200 books stored on each device (with add-on memory available) it makes financial sense too.

Of course it would be a major blow for booksellers, especially the poor beleaguered indies ... and as for libraries ...

But on the other hand, there's a possibility that lowering the costs of production could reduce the risks for publishers and lead to more books being published.
So you could argue that authors would potentially benefit, especially those writing fiction (so-called 'coffee table' books would presumably still be in demand in their current format).

But ... but ... could the Kindle ever be a substitute for holding a Real Book in your hands?
Stroking the cover ...
Sniffing the pages ...

So, this is my conclusion:
As an environmentalist I say, yes - this is a logical and ecologically sound way to go.
As an author I say I hope it increases the chances for writers to have their work published.

But as a lover of books I say ... well, call me a dinosaur, but if Real Books faced extinction I for one would be weeping and wailing and gnashing my teeth.

Please tell me I'm not the only one caught up in this contradiction.


pundy said...

You're not the only one. I loved handling, smelling and owning books. It's one of my greatest pleasures.

But this indulgence comes at a price.

I've downsized my car. I avoid flying wherever I can. I recycle religiously (even my jokes are recycled). I grow my own food.

But I'm damned if I'm going to stop buying books.

Taffiny said...

I am greedy. I do not wish to read books online, I want to hold them in my hot little hands and call them "Mine, mine, mine!".

I am greedy, I like having options, so I welcome new technology as long as I am still able to go about things as I choose. I do not choose to read books on my computer screen. I have a laptop but even so, a book is its own thing, its own entity, each one containing its own world, one authors vision. Not so many worlds lumped together, found in one space, each should be self contained, to be picked up, or put down, cherished or stomped on.

Debi said...

Pundy - you are of course damned anyway as we all well know.
But I agree - never give up on books.

Taff - welcome. Lovely to see you here. People who agree with me - and so articulately at that - are always welcome on my blog.