I'm sorry (but not really)

Writing this post has made me feel like a bad writer-friend, even though there should be no reason for it to do so. Everyone’s opinion is their own, and part of what makes living in a so-called first-world country so great is that I’m allowed to have that opinion: no one is forcing an agenda or way of thinking upon me. Yet, when it comes to books, I feel ashamed to admit: I prefer paperbacks. I like hardcovers, too, though more for uniformity if it’s part of a series, or a version of the book that I really want to keep in good condition. E-books, though? I just can’t do it.

Part of my trouble with e-books is that, whenever I sit down in front of my computer, laptop, or tablet, I don’t want to read a book. If I’m in front of any kind of input-enabled device, I feel I should be writing. I’ve got enough stories I need to be working on, after all. Reading for pleasure is a hobby of relaxation and subconscious learning, for me. I like to curl up on the sofa with a blanket around me and a cup of hot drink steaming between the open pages of a book as my eyes and brain travel down the paragraphs, soaking up the story. I don’t get the same comfy, relaxed feeling reading from a screen that I do from a collection of bonded pages in my hands. Plus, a computer offers too many distractions, mostly in the form of the Internet. Yes, I know I can turn that part off, but it’s so ingrained in me to be online if I have the option to be online, and, pretty soon, I’m more involved with the technology of my reading device than I am in the book itself.

A friend swears by her Kindle. She is a quick, avid reader, and she enjoys being able to take a dozen books on a trip to the beach with her, all in a device less than the weight of a standard paperback. That is admittedly impressive. And, there is a lot to be said for the saving of paper by not printing a book.

Printing, for those of you who don’t realize it, is expensive by its very consumable nature. When I printed From Hell (A Love Story), each copy cost about $14 to make, full-color cover, 300-some-odd pages, the whole nine yards of processing and publishing. On the other hand, making the e-pub version – using Scrivener – took just a few keystrokes, some online storage space (which I already had), and the time it took to upload. In no uncertain terms: way less than $14. So, I can understand how e-publishing appeals from a business perspective, as well.

Many of my author friends (the real ones, with real books, of whom I do not consider myself a part, let’s be perfectly clear) have produced e-books or e-pub versions of their books. And, I buy them. Because these are my friends, and I want to support them. But, I have to be completely, brutally honest: it takes me at least a dozen times longer to read an e-book than it does a paperback. Some e-books, I haven’t even gotten to. They’ve been sitting in my queue for months, and I feel horrible about it. But when I open them up, and the words appear on the screen, I just. Can’t. Do it. I can’t bring myself to read a book on a screen, no matter how glowy the Kobo, how booky the Nook, or how fiery the Kindle.

I’m not sorry to you, Amazon, because you already get enough of my money. But I’m sorry to my writer friends. I’m sorry to the e-pub-embracing generation of writers and readers out there. And, I’m sorry, trees. But I love my paperbacks, so I’m not really that sorry.

Well, maybe for the trees.

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Me and some of my favorite books
Photo by Celeste Giuliano, http://celestegiuliano.com/

What are your feelings about e-books? Do you have a preference for hard copies or e-pubs? Do you think I’m a bad person?

E-Readers; or, The classics are dead.

The classics are dead.

I should already know that, of course: I’ve got a degree in Classical Civilizations, wherein I learned the useless skill of interpreting when Cicero was being snarky to the Senate, and figuring out the real facts in Herodotus’s rambling journals. (I wasn’t very good at either. But it was just my minor.)

I’m not talking about those kinds of classics, though. I’m talking about the Book.

When it comes to books, I’m a classicist. I like to hold a heavy hardback or even softcover in my hands, turn from one page to the next (or occasionally flip back, if I’ve dozed somewhere along a Crichton or Clancy research description [or want to re-read some naughty Barker bit]). Perhaps it comes from having grown up reading multiple books at any given point in my life, usually ones far beyond my limited comprehension level at the time (Thanks, sis!). I was one of those fools you see on campuses with a pack so full of books it made me hunch, plus an extra stack of books in my arms: an English major. And I loved it. Not the studying part, so much, but the reading. If I hadn’t been forced to read all of that Victorian, Gothic, and early American lit, I might never have done so on my own…and never discovered that I really enjoy much of those “old” works. (I still love them, actually. I make a point to re-read Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde every year…and I still rather enjoy The Marble Faun, no matter what anyone says.)

I also grew up reading comics – scores of them – and the satisfaction I would get from grabbing a new issue that still smelled of ink pressed on newsprint is one that I cherish even now. Sometimes, I go into the longboxes full of old 1960s Lee/Kirby books and just smell them for a moment, before I carefully peel open the cover once more. And it’s glorious.

But now, there’s a new kid in town. It’s called the e-reader. I know it’s not exactly new…but, like I said, I’m a classicist. One of the more popular brands is Amazon’s Kindle, which seems to be synonymous with the overall product, like Kleenex for tissues or Trojan for condoms. But there are others out there, too: Nook’s a good option, I hear; and the iPad is a strong multi-use alternative, if you like playing Words with Friends on a huge touch screen. (If you’ve got a preference or insight into one over the others, feel free to let me know.)

I don’t currently own an e-reader/Kindle/Nook/iPad/book-replacement-doohickey. But I need one. Not because I have such a strong desire to replace my physical library with a virtual one; nor because I’m looking for an easy way to read that next 1,200-page monster novel on my morning commute; nor even because it’s “cool.” Those are all fine reasons to get one, of course, but they’re not my reasons. No, my reason is because I like to write, and to share my stories, and it appears that the e-reader is becoming more and more the way to get that done.

I’ve known about the KindleNookPadThing for a while, now, but it was a simple request from a friend that really prompted me to think seriously about it. This friend simply asked me one day if any of my stories were available for download to a Kindle. My first response was an elated, Thank you for your interest! And then I immediately stopped in that reply, because I had no idea if that were true, or how the darn thing works from a publishing perspective…even just for personal documents! (Because, you know, I really want to use a device that costs $80-$200 to share that article of mine about over-the-top set box devices.)

So, now, I’ve got to get myself one.

I’m sure I’ll find another use for my NookiePaddle. Who knows? That use might even be reading! I’ll still always enjoy the feel of a book in my hands, though. And – if I can ever get to the point of publishing Fearless, this novel of mine which I’ve come to love so damn much – you’ll certainly see it in electronic form. But I’ve still got to find a way to make it a physical book. Because, if nothing else, I’d like to be able to fall asleep to and flip back pages in my own story, for once.

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