Last month, in Holland, I saw a wonderful sight.
BOOK STORES – many of them. The windows featured attractive, tasteful displays and their doors stood wide open. I saw all kinds of titles, in a score of languages. The covers of the books themselves ran the gamut from somber to edgy. Walking inside, I was greeted by helpful, multilingual staff that showed me where to find what I was looking for.
The shops were crowded with people – all engrossed in the process of purchasing a good read.
I saw posted notices for book clubs that were open to new members, and writers’ groups offering the same inclusiveness. One of the book stores had an “authors’ resource center,” with a smiling technician waiting beside a USB port. “Just plug your memory stick in there,” he said, “and your electronic file will be transformed into an actual bound book in just a few minutes.” WOW.
In another shop, there was a lively discussion going on – again in several languages – about a new French law that aims to stop low e-book pricing. Apparently, in France, on-line book sellers will no longer be able to offer e-books for less money than the hard copy edition. The consensus seemed to be that the same guidelines will soon be adopted throughout the European Union.
The book store owner was excited. “Because of e-books, it is hard to keep my place running,” she said, “this will help a lot! But, I wonder if the general public will embrace this idea quite so warmly?”
I own a Kindle and I live in Mérida, Yucatán, México – a place where not all titles are available – so I am grateful for instant electronic delivery. My budget-conscious side appreciates getting reading material for a fraction of the regular price. My environmentally-conscious side appreciates the saving of trees and energy that e-publishing has brought about.
As a writer, I initially thought that having my books “out there” and available for the whole world to buy would be a plus. However it isn’t quite that simple. I have less “real” marketing and promotional venues for my books and because e-publishing is accessible to everyone, my books are in direct competition with millions of others that are also “out there.”
And I lament the decline in hard copy book production and the fact that 1,000s of book stores have closed. “Real” books and book stores promote culture.
Although e-books are more practical, I prefer physical books. I like creative full-color covers and the formatting of a well-designed book enhances my enjoyment. I like being able to flip back and forth through the pages, and feeling the weight of a book in my hands is eminently more satisfying than my flimsy-feeling Kindle reader.
I once read a post by a blogger who wrote about how he wanted to get rid of his shelf of “old fashioned objects” AKA “real books.” I for one hope the day never comes when everyone feels this way.
To me, books are treasures; The French say they are, objets d’art. Bless them.
I have to agree with the French, both hard copy books and electronic versions should be sold for the same price. It will even the playing field, keep book stores open and promote culture.