Isn’t it always the um curso em milagres something new, especially if revolutionary and therefore possibly quite strange, comes along, the majority of us ignore it like an irritating fad too foolish to acknowledge. Others inquisitively take notice, read the blurb, nod wisely, but carry on as before. However a few pioneers totally embrace it without a seconds thought, making whatever is innovative the centre of their lives.
E-books are like that, wouldn’t you say?
A fervent bookworm friend of mine was given an e-reader for his birthday. He was so intimidated by it that he didn’t unwrap it for two weeks. Then he reluctantly toyed with it for another week, downloading a free book. Read a bit. Put it down. Read a couple of paper books – p-books. Picked it up again. Browsed awhile longer; finally switching it off with lingering uncertainty. And then…
He was off. He couldn’t get enough of it. ‘There’s something so compelling about it,’ he said. ‘The screen is the size of a paperback and weighs the same or even less. I have a dozen or more books on it and it’s still the same weight! I’m also trying to reduce my reliance on reading glasses, so I just increased the font size. It’s incredible!’
Suddenly he’s a happier, more enriched reader. He still reads p-books, especially hardbacks, for they have undeniable tactile significance: the touch of quality paper, the rich smell of print, the intriguing dust jacket, and its status on the shelf. But more and more, the ease of e-reading, especially for the traveller, is gaining ground. Where would overloaded commuters be without them? They are now part of our techno-gizmo generation.
For those who actually read books, of course.
Ah, but that last sardonic remark is being contradicted, for seldom-reading gadget kids are now reading books because that’s obviously the purpose of an e-reader, another must-have along with iphones and ipads of the iwant society.
So that’s book readers sorted. What about me as a book writer? I have written a WWII thriller, Island of Steel. Feedback from trusted test readers was 100% positive. One agent did nothing with it. A second was over the moon, but got too busy with existing clients. And you need an agent to get your manuscript to publishers. Who are themselves in turmoil over the current financial downturn and this dynamic e-book interloper giving them a slap in their old-fashioned typeface.
I can publish an e-book any time I want, and for free! Knowing I have this immediate outlet with no one controlling my career has released my creativity and boosted my confidence. There is just you, my global public, and I. And I can print low priced p-books for traditionalists. Myself included.
However, let’s take an objective view at e-books vs. p-books.
The paper book is totally self-contained and sustainable – once the trees that made it have been replaced. But it is easily ripped and creased by careless use. Spilled water bloats the paper and distorts it. Deadly fire destroys it in seconds. And Philistines dog-ear its wisdom-filled pages. Yet, if mollycoddled, the same book is read and reread for years, acquiring a special charm, becoming a friend, as cosy and comforting as a pet on your lap.