Writing Quote

"Don't write merely to be understood.
Write so that you can't possibly be misunderstood."
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Novels as a Commodity

I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time now, but haven't had time, or haven't felt like blogging, or (insert acceptable excuse here). But since my husband got me a nook for Christmas, it has been especially on my mind.
I love paper books.
The weight, the texture, the look, the smell (that's right, the SMELL), the very act of holding a book and turning the pages and marking my place with a beautifully hand-crafted bookmark that reflects my personality ever so slightly, flipping through the pages to see where the chapter ends; all combine to make reading a lifestyle rather than a hobby for me. I have a book in hand almost constantly. Life won't allow me to do nothing but read very often, but I've learned to cook with one hand so I can hold a book with the other. If I have to run errands, my current read goes with me in case I'm stuck sitting in the car or standing in line. If I'm watching a TV show with my husband, I'm also reading. I even bathe with a book in hand.

Then along comes the ebook.
Suddenly most of the things I love about reading become impossible.
Except the most important thing: the stories, the stories, THE STORIES!
The stories are still there and they can be so neatly grouped together by the thousands. So many stories to choose from and to jump back and forth between at a second's notice. Many of the classics, which are now public domain, I can even get FOR FREE! BLISS!! But some of the more modern books I'm interested in reading cost as much as a paper book. Of course most ebooks are priced a bit lower (sometimes more than a bit lower) than their paper versions. I won't claim it isn't worth the price to get a good story in my collection. It absolutely is. I won't claim the author/publisher/retailer don't deserve the money. They absolutely do. But as much as I love a good novel, I can't deny that I've treated novels as commodities my whole life.

When I spend money on a paper book, I know that if I don't care much for it, I can sell or trade it later for something I might like better. If I love the book and decide to keep it, I can lend it to my friends as many times as I want, for as long as I want. That paper copy is mine, and I can do almost anything I want with it. That knowledge goes a long way towards justifying the cost of a book for me. I pay for the pleasure of the story, but it also retains some value as a commodity- something that can be sold or traded for other goods. This is not so for ebooks. If I buy an ebook, it is mine. Period. If I don't like it, I can delete it and get no more good from it. If I love it, I can keep it, but I'm limited in how I can share it with others. I am no longer buying a commodity, only the story. I understand the reasons for all these restrictions. They are reasonable and necessary, but they make me sad, too.

I have two opposing views at war within me and they are both right. I love the new and exciting world of eReading, but I can never entirely give up my paper books- my heart couldn't bear it! (cue a melodramatic pose and a crescendoing orchestral movement in the background, dim the lights, aaaaaaand scene. that's a wrap folks. pack it up and go home)

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