This week got off to a hectic start with an author summit taking place here in the Toronto headquarters of Harlequin. When one of our top authors comes to visit, it's a pretty big deal so there's a lot of work to be done both in preparation for the author's arrival as well as on the day of the actual summit. For assistants like myself, that means decorating boardrooms, making reservations, organizing catering, book signings, running errands for editors and top execs, serving, cleaning up and pretty much doing everything else in between. Oh, plus all of my usual work. It all adds up to a couple of really exhausting days that at least fly by pretty quickly and at the end of it all, I can't really complain because it usually means I get to meet some very cool people and add to my collection of autographed books. At any rate, I'm happy to announce that things have slowed down, which means I can catch up on some work and ease myself into the weekend.
Boyfriend and I recently purchased a wii fit, which I've been using on a daily basis despite my aforementioned exhaustion. I have to say, Nintendo have really done a good job with the wii fit. I'm amazed by how far "video games" have come (mostly due to the inventiveness of companies like Nintendo). The combination of exercise and games makes working out sooo much more enjoyable for people like me who hate going to the gym, but need some sort of routine along with someone (the wii fit itself in this case) to hold them accountable when they get lazy. I highly recommend it to anyone who knows they should exercise more, but just can't find the motivation.
The main topic of today's post is something I've wanted to comment on for a while, but I didn't quite have my thoughts organized on the subject until now (if even now). Every now and then, someone in the editorial department will forward along an article of interest regarding the publishing industry (usually focusing on some trend that's hot at the moment). Lately, a lot of articles about e-readers have been making the rounds and they've got me thinking about the pros and cons of e-readers and whether or not I should put any stock into the fear that books as we know them will one day be a thing of the past.
The article that finally inspired me to blog about this can be found here. It's a good read.
As for me, I still haven't completely made up my mind about e-readers, but here are some of the thoughts that occurred to me as I was reading this article:
E-readers are convenient--that can't be denied, and convenience has a long history of extinguishing older forms of media. The other benefits are obvious: e-readers save paper, you can carry your entire library around when you travel, and you can get your hands on the latest book by your favourite author at the click of a button, but are those benefits enough to eventually wipe out books completely?
I personally don't think so. At least not yet. I think that books still have a lot to offer that e-readers can't quite replace, which ironically leads me to my first point: replaceability.
Say you're on vacation, somewhere warm with a gorgeous white sandy beach. I love reading on the beach as do many people (they don't call them "beach reads" for nothing). It's relaxing and enjoyable and I can get lost in a wonderful story while working on my tan. But what happens when I get the urge to cool off by taking a dip in the water? Normally, I'd toss my reasonably priced paperback in my beach bag, and run for the waves, but I'm not sure I'd be so eager to leave my $300+ e-reader lying around. If some beach-klepto came along and swiped my copy of Twilight, I'd be pretty annoyed, but it wouldn't be too costly to replace. If I returned from my salty frolic to find my uber-expensive e-reader missing...well, I think you can figure it out. Long story short, books, for the most part, are easily replaceable, e-readers are costly and until they can produce an e-reader that costs around $50, books will continue to be the safe alternative for public reading.
Furthermore, I don't want to lose things like gorgeous book covers, that wonderful book smell, or the silent book club that is being able to identify what someone else is reading on the subway (a natural form of book marketing many authors benefit from). These things are an important part of my experience as an avid reader. I don't want to have to rely on a battery to keep reading and I really don't want to think about the impact e-readers could have on the public library system.
I do think that e-readers have their applications. They're very handy for things like reference books, travel guides, news media and other subscriptions. At my work, they're used for reading manuscripts that aren't in book form yet and as I mentioned above, it saves a lot of paper. But what about art books, coffee table books, children's books, or anything that benefits from the glory of full-colour illustrations? What about the connection between the reader and the page? Will an electronic medium distance us too much to fall in love with books the way we have in the past? Can anything be classified a classic on a technologically advanced screen?
Maybe I'm delusional for thinking e-readers can't replace books (I'm sure there was a time when nobody believed the use of stone tablets would be eclipsed), but as far as the near future goes, I only see them becoming a compliment to the way things are currently. An option. Like audio books (which I'm a fan of by the way, though I should note that I own physical copies of almost all of the audio books on my ipod--I see the book price as the cost of the story and the audio book price as the cost of having someone as enthralling as Stephen Fry read it to me on the subway). I don't know what will happen down the road as the e-reader market expands, the units themselves become undoubtedly cheaper and the available options become more appealing (full-colour screen to display gorgeous covers plus week-long battery life?), but I do know that even if I make the decision to purchase an e-reader for myself one day, I will always still want books and lots of them.