Books: Still a Load of Crap


I've finally chosen the topic for my descent into everything-sucks-now-because-everybody's-younger-than-me old fartisanship: the death of email.

Email was a perfectly good way to communicate. It instilled good writing habits. It motivated people to keep you up to date without wasting your time. It could contain either subject-line-only tweets or charming 2,000-word rambles from friends who just wanted to talk. You could reply in one second or six months, and for the most part people were cool with that.

And now, within the space of a year or three, email has been declared dead. Now there's something wrong with you if you still send people email.

The future of books: Exile without end and without an example in story.

So it's a little hard to get worked up over the gathering wave of book-decline hysteria. The institutions of publishing have, like the institutions of other print media, already shown themselves to be completely unserious about loosening the restrictions that make them uncompetitive. Retail prices have not come down in any degree that reflects changing reality. Publishers have not availed themselves of exciting new print-on-demand technologies. Books, despite their leisurely lead times, are under-edited in ways that are shocking to anybody with experience in the newspaper or magazine industries. And the promotional channels are still clogged by snootiness. (At a signing for Marisa Meltzer's excellent new book Girl Power the other day, the author indicated that she was not expecting a New York Times review because the Grey Lady still turns up its nose at paperback-only runs.)

Why should anybody mourn an industry determined to collaborate in its own death? It's possible, and maybe desirable, that within a few years most physical books will be micro-runs of self-published or informally published works rather than boxes of mass-printed doorstops sent to the remainder tables by the usual gang of idiots at Random House.

But will the physical book endure at all? Matt Thomas makes the case for good ol' paper and ink, in the process finding a way to work a moreover and an indeed into a single paragraph:

Moreover, new doesn't necessarily mean better. Indeed, printed books may actually be technologically superior in many ways – at this stage of the game at least – to the e-books vying to supersede them.

To explain what I mean by this, I turn to Gabriel Zaid's wonderful little book So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance. In it, Zaid gives six reasons why books are superior to other forms of media.

Three of the six reasons are plausible: Books are easy to skim, handy for pacing your reading, and relatively cheap (you can buy about 1,000 used paperbacks for the price of an iPad). Three seem like stretchers: Books are portable (but less portable in large quantities than a Kindle); they offer more variety (already a debatable point, given how quickly online capture of the print world is occurring); and you don't need to make an appointment to read one (at this point you don't even need an appointment to watch a TV show). Left out of Zaid's six points* is the most obvious advantage to those of us who believe Ben Bernanke is leading America into a new bronze age: You don't need electricity to operate a book.

Veteran Hit & Run commenter Andrew Lynch sends along this Times story on e-book malcontents and points out one way e-books recreate the vices of print: They're overpriced. "Honestly, who would pay $14.99 for something that doesn't even have a dust jacket or full-color illustrations?" Lynch asks.

At the HuffPost, Dan Agin says those price issues are quickly resolving themselves, and dismisses the publishing industry with a Rupert Pupkinesque "So long, suckers! Better luck next time!"

Anyone with an imagination about the future of technology and commerce knows that the printed book on paper is already on its way to obsolescence. The wrangling and beefing and whining about prices and protecting demand for printed books by publishing executives is both amusing and tragic.

It's tragic because when an industry dies because of corporate blindness, people do get hurt. When the automobile put the horse and carriage trade out of business, blacksmiths and carriage makers became irrelevant overnight. But before that happened people were up to their eyeballs in media baloney that the automobile was only a fad.

Some fad.

The problem with smartypants takes like this one is that, while print dinosaurs deserve great helpings of scorn, the degree to which they depend on the old economic model is not some made-up thing. A while back I attended a panel wherein the entrepreneur Jason McCabe Calacanis scoffed at the Los Angeles Times for not hiring him as its top web guy after he suggested getting rid of the Monday-through-Saturday print editions and only printing on Sunday. My hatred of the L.A. Times is as sharp and finely honed as the sword of Siegfried, and Calacanis is right that newspaper zombies spend too much time managing their industrial-age machinery. But you know what? Nobody will hire you when you tell them to get rid of six-sevenths of their income. As Pete Viles, creator of the paper's LA Land blog, put it: "We're doing everything wrong and we're going out of business. But we could be doing everything right and still go out of business."

Picture if you will Mr. Henry Bemis in a world where books need electricity.

I am positive that the next person who reads a book through on an e-reader will be the first, and that anybody who tells me she reads everything on a Kindle is really saying, "I don't finish books anymore." Now there's plenty to be said for finishing books. (Did you know, for example, that only about half of the Odyssey is about Odysseus' wanderings, and the rest is taken up with killing the suitors and a bone-dull coda in which Odysseus works out a compensation package for the mentally anguished families of the suitors?) But there's no shame in picking the information you need, rather than forcing your eyeballs through a 500-page slog.

So, I ask again, why is anybody trying to reproduce the book? It's a mediocre vehicle for transmitting information. That's why it has been on the fade not since the beginning of the 21st century but since the beginning of the 20th. It's why Philip Larkin said in 1964 that books are a load of crap. Even in 1773, by Jove's beard, Samuel Johnson replied (tartly), "No, Sir, do you read books through?"

In my day, the internet was carried on lighter than air dirigibles and the term for this was "shovelware," the steaming pile left behind when an old media pachycephalosaurus like George or Modern Bride would make no effort to engage on its own terms the then-young world wide web (the graphical and multimedia portion of the internet).

E-books are shovelware in a more expensive form. The more useful they become, through searchability, connectivity and writeability, the less they resemble books. So why not ditch the metaphor?

I hate to sound harsh. The truth is that while I can tolerate current technology, I can only love obsolete technology. So by all means, save your iBooks and Kindles and such, because in 15 years they'll be as rare and hilarious as 8-track cassette players.

Related: Get over to Amazon and help my pal Amy Alkon fend off a negative-wave attack by the mob of haters at Sadly No against her funny polemic memoir, or polemoir, I See Rude People.

* Although electricity is not specifically noted in the list of Zaid's points, Matt Thomas does address this in his post.

NEXT: The System Isn't Broken

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  1. Email is not dead. It’s living under an assumed name, somewhere in the carribean.

    1. Rooming with Elvis no less.

    2. My God, I think I went out with her last year. Should have scrolled by faster.

    3. In corporate America, email is alive and well; I’m cc’d on at least 100 emails a day.

      I don’t see it dying any time soon, as it’s the ultimate “cover your ass” tool in the business world.

      1. The problem is that they covered their ass with your ass by ccing you about their ass covering.

        So since they let you in on the fact that they were selling lead tainted radioactive pacifiers to blind, deaf Haitian orphans then its now your fault as well since you did not report them. Your defense that you did not read those 100 emails simply shows your callousness

        1. I wish my emails were that exciting!

          In my world, we mainly use email to “help” our boss “remember” things. Like when he told you it was ok to expense the $700 restaurant tab to the company.

          Lets face it, there’s no greater satisfaction than dredging up some moldy old email which proves your boss is dead wrong.

          Preferably after he’s ranted at everyone via a few hundred emails of his own…

    4. Umm, if email is allegedly dead, then what replaced it?

      And what are all those corpses piling up in my email inbox?

  2. It instilled good writing habits.

    And a sense of humor.

  3. and the rest is taken up with killing the suitors and a bone-dull coda in which Odysseus works out a compensation package for the mentally anguished families of the suitors?)

    That’s the half Obama read.

  4. Tim,

    I to am skeptical of the people who claim Kindals are the only way to go because you can download thousands of books.

    I consistently read an average 10 to 20 pages a night every night before I go to bed. Some nights more some nights less. But 10 to 20 is the average. That adds up to around 5000 pages a year. That is a lot of reading. But when you consider that the average length of the books I read is around 300 pages, that is about 15 books a year, which is a hell of a lot of reading. Now, unless I just skim and don’t finish them, what the hell use do I really have for 1000s or even hundreds of books?

  5. Books aren’t music. Carrying around your entire music collection in a small electronic device makes sense. Carrying around your entire book collection on a small electronic device makes no sense.

    When was the last time you were sitting around and said “Ooh, I’d like to read Have Space Suit, Will Travel again!” Then ten minutes later say, “Now I’m reading Lolita!”

    1. Exactly. I like to keep the books I have read. But I don’t often open them up once I have read them.

      1. I go back to some of mine a few years later. Dusting off Snowcrash soon and seeing what else I have hiding away.

        1. I do that sometimes. But then I feel guilty because I could be reading something new.

          1. I don’t feel guilty about it a bit. To each their own. I need to attempt another Neal Stephenson book and resist the feeling that it is Snowcrash with other characters. I love his work but to me it just reads like that. Have heard others say the same.

            1. Read the Baroque Cycle. Not at all like Snowcrash.

              Also, Im a constant rereader. I probably reread 2 books for every new book I read.

              1. Will have to check it out. Thanks!

              2. Stopped reading the Baroque Cycle about 40 pages in. It is not at all like Snowcrash, and not in a good way, either.

            2. Never heard that before, and having heard that now, I cannot comprehend it.

              1. Marc,

                I just got that impression from reading a bit of Diamond Age, then switching to Snowcrash. Seemed like the same book, but I like Snowcrash better.

                The jumping around between groups of characters seems to be common from what I heard too.

            3. I didn’t particularly like Snowcrash but I loved Anathem because it’s full of mathematics and philosophy of mathematics.

                1. It helps to read Cryptonomicon before The Baroque Cycle in that the same families are involved, although a few hundred years apart.

                  The Baroque Cycle (3 novels) runs from roughly 1665 to 1715. Cryptonomicon is WW2 and “modern” (late 90s). Oh, both Newton and Leibniz are characters in The Baroque Cycle, so it has some math too. As does Cryptonomicon.

            4. If you read any other Neal Stephenson book hoping for Snowcrash v2.0 you’ll be sorely disappointed.

              If, however, you want good writing, you won’t be. I must say, however, that his Baroque Cycle, while fantastically detailed and fascinating in parts, did kind of go on… and on… and on.

              The Diamond Age is my overall favorite Stephenson book so far. Made Snowcrash look like a pulpy, thin book. I think Stephenson made some references to Snowcrash and cringing at the story a bit. I may be remembering wrong. Cryptonomicon was very good and started the process of his more historical period works such as the Baroque Cycle.

              1. I must say, however, that his Baroque Cycle, while fantastically detailed and fascinating in parts, did kind of go on… and on… and on.

                True, although it ends surprisingly well for a Stevenson novel(s). Also, Half-cocked Jack Shaftoe, L’Emmerduer, the King of the Vagabonds, Ali Zayback, Quicksilver, Sword of Divine Fire may be the best character in 21st century literature so far (I havent run into a better one).

                1. Stephenson, clearly this is a joez law for me getting on John about misspelling Vonn earlier today.

                  1. When did I misspell Vonn?

                    I did misspell “Neal” (as Neil) in the dedication page of a book that went paperback.

                    1. John, not you. You are “John Tagliaferro”, you are not “John”.

            5. Cryptonomicon is by far my favorite book of Stephenson’s. It’s got it all, computer geekery, WWII, treasure hunts & cryptography. Feels like a different author that Snow Crash and Diamond Age. Anathem and the Baroque Cycle are a lot more work. But, hey, if he writes it, I’ll read it.

      2. I give away every book I read. I usually know who would love that particular book and It is interesting to discuss it afterwards.

    2. Ebooks will make a lot more sense to me when I’m on a spaceship to Mars. There’s just no room for a library on a spaceship. That having been said, the form doesn’t particularly bother me.

      I’ll be reading novels, in one way or another, until I die or whatever.

      1. Better have Martian Chronicles in pulp in case you lose power. You can see what you will miss before you die.

        1. John, the last thing you need on a Mars trip is the Martian Chronicles. Kinda like bringing a nudity picture book to a nudist camp.

    3. For the target customer for Kindles [at least the initial target customer] the storage issue isn’t just a matter of portability; it’s a matter of physical space.

      The highest volume book buyers end up giving books away or throwing them away because they simply have no room for them. The problem is particularly acute for apartment dwellers.

    4. Practicality aside, i like the comparison to digital music. The publishers sound just like record executives. or movie execs for that matter.

      Anyway, personally I really wish i had a kindle right now. I got the urge to re-read the hithicker’s guide series the other day only to realize they’re in a box at my mom’s house :/

  6. “But there’s no shame in picking the information you need, rather than forcing your eyeballs through a 500-page slog.”

    Sorry, man. When it comes to literature, at least, I completely disagree. Really… I can’t even wrap my mind around your point. Then, I’m a reader.

    1. You read literature for information? Maybe, as a fan of sci-fi and D&D books, i just don’t know what literature really MEANS.

  7. Sooo…what are you saying, exactly? We shouldn’t write books anymore? People should just write short stories and articles?

    1. Yes! But in 140 characters (or fewer).

    2. Write them to your hearts content. But make them work more like wikipedia and less like a doorstop.

      And stop bitching when people don’t want to buy your hard cover edition instead of signing up for your website.

  8. “So by all means, save your iBooks and Kindles and such, because in 15 years they’ll be as rare and hilarious as 8-track cassette players.”

    Uh huh. And all the books you bought on them will have to be re-purchased in the new format. Don’t think for a minute that publishers won’t learn that little trick from the music and movie industries.

    1. Damn, now I have to buy another copy of the White Album.

      1. You do if you want it on CD or now hi fi CD. And you of course have to replace your copy of the Godfather first with a DVD and now with a Blue Ray.

        1. Yeah, damn Sony and all the other companies that make the Blu-Ray players that also play DVDs and some that even have a VHS built in as well.

        2. Here’s my question: was anyone really unsatisfied by the quality on DVDs? And c’mon, wtf is this hifi CD nonsense. or DVD audio for that matter.

          In my day you listened to 44.1khz, 16-bit-per-channel stereo and YOU LIKED IT!

          1. As long as there are willing suckers, there will be providers of marginally superior delivery devices.

          2. Yes. Uncompressed PCM audio is the biggest bonus for me on Blu-ray. I’m no audiophile but it sounds incredible and is totally unmatched by anything DVDs can offer.

            1. Damn, i was only thinking about video quality. Never noticed anything crappy about the audio on DVDs though.

              1. Louder isn’t necessarily better. If you give a monkey a paint brush and a million-color palette, he’ll want to use each hue. We humans should be above all that. And yet movie sound-tracks have become intrusive to the point of insanity.

          3. I’m actually unsastified with the quality of Blu-ray. Busy scenes almost always contain dithering (a compression artifact that looks like static or even film grain, except it isn’t (if blu-ray’s had 10x the storage space the films could be stored uncompressed and would look flawless as long as they didn’t waste too much space on ads and special features)).

            Also, doing new HD transfers of old films that were previously transferred only for low definition certainly does cost a lot of additional money. They don’t just magically convert a blu-ray to DVD (just as they didn’t magically convert VHS to DVD).

  9. Bring electronics into the bathroom to read is wrong. Flush toilets should be the most advanced technology involved in reading on the crapper.

    1. Just had a brilliant idea: novels. printed. on toilet paper.

      Think about it!

  10. I find it tedious at best to read more than a few screens’ worth of anything. I cannot imagine reading Tristram Shandy (or even a three page S J Perelman vignette) on a Kindle or computer screen.

    This may say more about the ossification of my brain than it does about the utility of e-readers, but there it is.

    1. Hate to sound like a fanboi, but reading a Kindle isn’t anything like reading a computer screen.

      That said, I don’t read mine as much as I did when I first got it. I mainly use it for porting around a library of research papers in PDF, grabbing textbooks quickly, and, um… reading Reason.

    2. I read books on the computer all the time. No eye strain to speak of. But reading a PDF is definitely crappier than reading txt/rtf/html files loaded into yBook (google it, its free).

      Sometimes the only illicit versions of a book i can find are PDFs though.
      So I suck it up and get my scrolling finger ready. Just made it through PDFs of 3 of the new Dune books over a weekend last month. The content itself was far more painful than the method of reading it.

      1. So you downloaded illegal copies of three crappy books and read them each in turn? You must have a lot of free time on your hands.

        1. Free time and strain free eyes. Jealous?

  11. John:

    You’re a fairly light reader, and a Kindle at its current price point would not be a very good deal for you.

    Don’t get me wrong, you’re a HUGELY LITERATE person by the standards of 2010 America, but your observation is essentially correct: you don’t buy enough books, or read in enough situations, for a Kindle to make sense.

    Kindles are for the Rory Gilmours of the world. Chicks walking around with three books in their backpack because they read on the train, in line at the store, outside under a tree, etc.

    I would also say to Tim that I’m sure Kindle readers are reading books all the way through, because right now the Kindle market is dominated by fiction, particularly genre fiction like romance, sci-fi, and Christian stuff. And those readers finish their books. Tim is probably a big reader of political books or other non-fiction, and yeah, I bet a lot of those ebook buyers skim. But the people buying books by politicians in hardcover are skimming them too.

    Kindles would be better for nonfiction if they had a better Notes function, something that went beyond what it currently does and did something like what the Opera browser does for the web. You should be able to highlight a passage and clip it, and have that note move to a permanent Notes file, with an accurate attribution and citation saved simultaneously. That would be a powerful tool. Maybe some app developer will build one.

    1. You know. I don’t think those people read that much or there are as many of those people as claimed. It takes a lot of time to read. I mean really read and not skim, especially if you are reading heavy material. Yeah, you can read a hundred pages an hour of some pulp novel, but you start reading heavy lit or history and your pace slows down. And people do have to make a living. Even if sold my TV and gave up every other hobby, unless I quit my job what I am going to read (and I mean really read not skim) 100 pages a night? Every night seven days a week? Even that is 36,500 pages a year which at 300 pages a book is only about 125 books a year. And I am talking a 125 books a year of Gibbon and Tolstoy. Not a 125 books a year of romance novels and Dan Brown.

      That is a shitload of reading. I am sorry but I don’t think there are many people out there who work a full time job and also read 100 pages of heavy reading a day. Maybe I am naive but I don’t buy it.

      1. Well, there’s a reason I said “chicks”.

        There are lots of book-a-day chicks out there. They have chick jobs, or are students.

        Not a 125 books a year of romance novels and Dan Brown.

        Well, turn that logic around. Lots of people READ romance novels and Dan Brown. If you also basically are saying you would read more total pages if you were reading lighter material, well – the customers for that lighter material exist and are part of the book market, ya know.

        1. True. I never thought it that way.

    2. I am not saying there are not Rory Gilmours out there. There are. I just don’t think there are many of them.

      1. A lot of it is lifestyle, too. A hell of a lot of people in the NYC area spend 90 minutes or more a day on public transport; you can get through a lot of books that way. They also tend to have very limited space and a limited ability to move stuff around — serious readers end up having real issues about what to do with their books. E-readers make a lot of sense for people like that.

        1. If I traveled more than I do or were stuck on the metro, I would buy a Kindle. of course I would be terrified of losing the damned thing.

    3. I’m pretty sure other readers already have that function.

      To be honest, I don’t understand the hype of the Kindle. Pretty much every reader out there looks (to me) like it’s better – more features, supports more formats (and open standard formats), etc.

  12. I’ve had my Kindle since Christmas and I’ve read a number of books right through, including my first time with Atlas Shrugged and Anna Karenina.

  13. I find it tedious at best to read more than a few screens’ worth of anything. I cannot imagine reading Tristram Shandy (or even a three page S J Perelman vignette) on a Kindle or computer screen.

    This is why the Kindle will win and the iPad will lose. The iPad is ultimately just a cool-looking computer. Kindle users report, in large numbers, that the eink screen becomes virtually indistinguishable from paper after the novelty wears off, and a Kindle is less like a computer than it is like a book that someone decided to build out of plastic.

    1. Agreed. I really enjoy my Kindle DX (the bigger screen is a bonus). It’s a lot easier on the eyes than a computer screen, and really does read like a book. The lack of backlighting is actually a plus, not a minus.

    2. Disco. E-ink is great to look at. The big drawback for me is that it’s slow.

    3. I think you are right about that. The I-pad is too much computer to compete with the Kindle and too much Kindle to compete with laptops. The lack of multi-tasking really hurts it. I really see no reason why someone who already owns a laptop, Kindle, and MP3 player (which all of its market) would buy one.

  14. Personally i will never give up reading printed books, both hardback and paperback. i actually prefer the hardbacks, as they keep much better. i genrally dont read drivel, mostly non fiction and classics, but even the fiction i read ala dan brown is better in paper form, i can never see myself reading heemingway or orwell or anyone on a computer screen, i love to read outside with coffee and before bed. I actually do subscribe to the locval paper and read it everyday 7 days a week, i love it, and would be saddened to see it go, i use the internet mewdia more, but there is just something about reading the printed word that is intoxicating, a feeling you dont get reading a screen. OH and i am not an older person just in my early 30’s. so not all younger people disdain reading books, magazines and papers.

  15. It seems kind of a pointless fight. Some people will keep buying and reading printed books. Some will buy Kindles and iPads.

    The end.

  16. I say, two Rupert Pupkin references in as many days. Good show!

    1. At Reason everybody gets to be king for a night, and schmuck for a lifetime.

  17. You can’t go to a library and look at all of the ebooks for free. You cannot browse them to your hearts content before buying them. There are enough people still reading books (even among the younger generation) and enough used books that even if the publishing industry collapses completely, people will go on reading old fashioned print books for a long, long time.


      1. Keep your hands where I can see them and back away from the library nice and slow, “Future” boy. This here old-fashioned shotgun does just what it looks like, and if you don’t blow out that match in your hand right now, I’m gonna blow out YOUR candles right here all over the steps. You eco-sissies keep poking those limp green noodles of yours in where they’re not wanted, we’re gonna rip them off and wrap them around your gimpy little necks at the necktie parties we’ll be holding with you as the guests of honor, understood!?

  18. The death of email has been greatly exaggerated.

  19. People who read Sadly, No! are douchebags. Ask Jacob Sullum.

    I don’t think that the e-book and the real book have to be locked in a steel-cage death match.

    I think the answer is fabbing printed copies on biodegradable paper.

    Print out a book; read it in the next couple of weeks; then bury it in the backyard where it will be swallowed by a grateful Gaia.

    1. I am a librarian and have a near-religious aversion to the idea of throwing away or destroying a book. To me, books are sacred objects like the Koran is to Muslims; cows are to devout Hindus and cell phones are to teenage girls.

      1. I concur. I culled my library recently and, instead of trying to sell the books (pointless!) or throwing them into the dumpster, I piled them up on a table in the laundry room with a note that read: FREE BOOKS. TAKE THEM! In two days they were all gone. I like to think I may have inspired a brain or two.

        1. Good for you. I sometimes donate them to Goodwill or another charity.

        2. Donate them to your local jail.You should see the crap in most jail libraries. There are usually restrictions as to subject matter so call ahead, it may save you a trip as they will discard offending material.

      2. Ditto on the inability to throw away a book. I have boxes of them in my garage.

        Fortunately, its been so long since I read some of them that re-reading them is like reading them the first time. Yay!

        1. About a year ago I reread The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I was faily young when I read it the first time. I got jokes I was too young to understand the first time. It was even funnier the second time around.

          1. I just reread Preston Sturges’s wonderfully witty autobiography. I first (and last) opened it in 1993. Will current ebook formats be so easily accessible 17 years hence? The cynic in me says no.

            1. “Will current ebook formats be so easily accessible 17 years hence? The cynic in me says no.”

              I agree. Try finding a computer that can take an 8 inch or even a 3&1/2 inch floppy disk.

              1. I believe I own the last Dell with a diskette drive. Soon the world will be coming to me with their obsolete files. I’ll be rich. Rich, I tells ya!

              2. Storage mediums are file formats are two separate things. Keeping an open file format usable forever is no big deal. The important part is moving the files to a viable medium before it becomes inconvenient to read the old medium.

                I have no problem reading files I produced on an Atari 800 close to thirty years ago. But this is only because I moved them to other storage systems long ago, and repeated the process a few times over the years.

      3. “To me, books are sacred objects like the Koran is to Muslims; cows are to devout Hindus and cell phones are to teenage girls.” Apparently you don’t have teenage girls. I think they lose them on purpose to get the next model.

      4. I agree. I can’t recall ever throwing a book away. If I don’t want to keep it, can’t sell it and can’t find a friend/relative who wants to read it, I donate it to the library.

      5. That makes three libratarians. Interesting.

        1. Dude, you should TOTALLY trademark that.

          1. I googled around a bit. There are 13,800 google hits where it is a mis-spelling/typo for “libertarians.” I didn’t see one instance (skimming very fast of course) of it used to denote librarian’s who are libertarians.

            “Lesbrarian” is fairly common though, in both senses of that term.

            1. “Lesbrarian” is fairly common though, in both senses of that term.

              I know one of these

        2. Listen up, bibliophiles!

          I’m with you–in spirit. I own about two walls’ (6ft bookshelves) worth of books.

          And then I had to move three times in less than one year. That means packing and unpacking about 12 boxes of books, three separate times. Hauling tomes is hard on a brother!

          1. My wife (also a librarian and heavy reader/re-reader) and I have so many books we don’t want to move again, even to a bigger house.

            There will be a terrible reckoning if she ever gets a new job and we have to move. Terrible indeed.

          2. We should have our own support group.

        3. Librarians are, as a profession, very pro-free speech and supportive of the concept of privacy to an extreme. Half of the DNA is automatically there. A librarian who supports free market economics is almost by definition a libertarian.

  20. “Honestly, who would pay $14.99 for something that doesn’t even have a dust jacket or full-color illustrations?”

    I don’t pay $14.99 because a book has a dust cover. Except for using a flap as a book mark, dust covers are annoying.

  21. I like the mass market paperback. They are durable (American editions, at least), ultraportable and only need a little light to read. And I end up reading more MMPB (or at least faster) because I don’t wag hardbacks around.

    And I miss all the old used bookstores. That’s what I did when my wife goes clothes shopping on vacation. It’s one of the few things I don’t dig about the internet. I miss the hunt.

    1. I miss the hunt.

      Same for the record store.

      1. Yes, that too. I like that I can order a used book or album on a whim–it’s not like I found all my Philip K. Dick first editions scrounging around–but something has been lost.

    2. I love MMPBs because you can treat them like crap and not feel bad about it. I figure if I ever need to I can just get a new copy… though I never had. I have a few old books (Crichton and Anne Rice) where pages are literally falling out in a few spots, but I’ve just tucked them back in and they haven’t been lost yet.

  22. This whole rant makes little sense. The author seems to think that books are only ‘informative’, but then mixes his criticisms of books, and none of those criticisms are very persuasive.

    I actually tried a Kindle over Christmas, and I’m not against the idea, but I am against the execution. Kindle books lack attractive formatting. This is generally irritating (part of the experience of reading a book is its font and layout) but also specifically harmful – try reading any book that uses colorful layouts, or has lots of words-in-boxes asides. It looks like crap on the Kindle.

    1. This is generally irritating (part of the experience of reading a book is its font and layout) but also specifically harmful – try reading any book that uses colorful layouts, or has lots of words-in-boxes asides. It looks like crap on the Kindle.

      This is true. Since the reader is in charge of the page size and text size with the Kindle, formatting that depends on the publisher’s control of the page layout tends to look like ass on the Kindle.

      It’s like on the early web, when websites would fall apart if the end user increased the font size or changed the resolution.

      But like on the web, hopefully a set of best practices will emerge for publishing to the Kindle that will eliminate or at least minimize the problem. It’s pretty hard these days to use your browser settings to screw up a first-class website.

  23. “there’s no shame in picking the information you need, rather than forcing your eyeballs through a 500-page slog”

    Poor Tim. His chosen profession “forces” him to read entire books! I recall an old-fashioned corrective…I believe the kids called it…Cliffs Notes?

  24. One thing that personally annoyed me is my distribution chain wanting or insisting on higher prices. I am perfectly fine with pricing my stuff low and make a smaller per copy royalty, but Amazon/Kindle/CreateSpace are not.

    Even for Kindle, Amazon is “encouraging” minimum pricing of $1.99 beginning next month. It is an incentive with royalties going to 70% if they are between 1.99 and I forgot what on the high end.

    Paperbacks, ugh, if you want them available anywhere besides Amazon and your printer you really have to jack up the price to get a tiny royalty.

    It sure is not for covering their costs either. I can order my own books at cost plus whatever margin they need and that is very reasonable. I would be fine with $1.00 or less over that.

    I know, it isn’t my printing press. Can lump it or leave it.

    1. You can still price at 99 cents and make the 35% royalty, of course.

      Agreed on the CreateSpace pricing. It’s a bit extreme. The funny thing is that it’s the best POD pricing to date, so that means that before Amazon bought those guys you would REALLY get screwed.

      1. True, I guess I cam in at the “lucky” time. Never even thought of writing and publishing until last year and lucked out knowing someone with an unused ISBN block who was glad to recover a portion of his money.

        Looks like Lulu is getting ‘reasonable’ too, for hardcovers.

  25. I don’t read anywhere near as much as I used to (and even then it wasn’t much by hard-core reading standards) but I love my books. I have SF books from the 50’s and 60’s my grandmother gave me (some of the original cover art is incredible) and I can pass my own books onto my kids when they have an interest ini reading them. I can’t do that with e-books. Do you even get cover art with e-book?

    And agreed on the post above re music v. books.

    1. This is very true.

      The tradeoff, though, is that the vast majority of material from the 50’s is no longer in print, and the only way to get it is to have some guy like you drag it out of his attic and hand it down like an heirloom. Or you could try to track it down in a used book store. A lot of used books are available online, but the number of “vanished” books is much larger than the number of available books.

      Ebooks will change that because the concept of going “out of print” will cease to exist. Once something is “published” to an ebook sales platform there’s no reason to ever withdraw it. It can potentially remain available forever.

      1. Agreed. I experienced this same thing with music. There was a bunch of small label stuff from the 70’s and early 80’s that didn’t make the transition to CD. So, if you didn’t have the LP or cassette, you’re SOL.

        Fortunately, there are a good number of music blogs with hard to find/out of print music. I was able to scratch most of that itch finding the music there. I still can’t find Scruffy the Cat’s Boom Boom Bingo EP. I have it on vinyl, but have no turntable and don’t want to have to buy an Ion just for one platter.

        So yes, that environment is tailor made for music. I don’t mind so much not having the physical media, the 1st album I was able get instantly on Amazon cured me of that, but music also doesn’t have the holistic tactile and holistic experience you get from reading a book.

        1. To clarify: the music was ripped copies of the analog recordings, not a used CD store/swap. I was careful to not d/l anything that I already didn’t own in an older format or that wasn’t for sale otherwise (usually).

          1. At least you could convert your vinyl to digital without massive cost. Don’t know how that’s possible with books. I suppose someone could come up with a book scanner so that people don’t have to scan t pages at a time themselves, but I can’t see it being inexpensive because it’s mechanic-intensive. Then again, google is trying to digitize everything that was ever printed so maybe I’m wrong.

            I’ll get Kindle when I can read comic books on it.

            1. “I’ll get Kindle when I can read comic books on it.”

              That’s what I’m waiting for. Someone releases an ereader that can display comics (full pages without having to zoom or scroll) in color, I’m there.

              1. You can do both Kindle and comics on your PC. A Netbook is near the same price point now too.

  26. I have books printed in the 20s and earlier. Some of them are in pretty good shape, some are not. But all of them are readable. Talk to me about your ebooks in 90 years. How many format changes and everything else will you have to put up with in that time?

    Electronic mediums are not permanent. Books, more or less, are.

    1. I predict PDF will still be around then.

      1. Who is going to update the format of electronic version of less read books if there is not a huge incentive to?
        It’s basically the same problem we have with out of print but not out of copyright paper books. It’s not you can’t find them (though that’s part of it) it’s that there is not enough monetary incentive to update the format of those older books.

        For romance trash that’s one thing, the bigger problem is that this applies to lots of reference books that have some value in research, but to less people.

      2. But will it finally work perfectly with screen readers?

        1. Of course. Everything works better in the future.

          1. “Of course. Everything works better in the future.”

            I prefer the toilets from 20 years ago. They did not clog as much as these low flow pieces poor excuses for toilets.

    2. The high chlorine content of the typical paper in early to mid 20th century books is making many of them dissengrate before their time.

  27. Love books. Love long books. Reread books all the time. Fuck the anti-book people.

    The is how Fahrenheit 451 gets started.

    1. +1
      Just finished rereading all 1463 pages of the unabridged Les Miserables.
      Suck it, Tweeters!

      1. Great book. I love those old French novels. Like all ten thousand pages of the various Three Musketeers books and The Count of Monte Cristo.

        1. Ayn Rand on Victor Hugo:
          You may read any number of more “realistic” accounts of the French Revolution, but Hugo’s is the one you will remember. He is not a reporter of the momentary, but an artist who projects the essential and fundamental. He is not a statistician of gutter trivia, but a Romanticist who presents life “as it might be and ought to be.” He is the worshipper and the superlative portrayer of man’s greatness.

          1. Okay, well 10 points for Rand, then, for taste.

  28. I love my Sony ereader, and I do finish books on it, but I haven’t given up on paper books either. For me it’s a matter of money – there is as yet no second hand market for ebooks, and no method of ebook exchanges like (which, BTW, is not limited to paperbacks). I’m cheap, and since I’m now obtaining books for the Diva, who’s turning out to be a book devourer like her librarian mommy, I use a lot.

    I’m quite happy, however, to be published in e-format only. I used to think I wouldn’t be satisfied till I saw my smut published between paper covers, but I’m getting over that. I think I can make more money, and I know I can make it more quickly, in e-format. My little e-pubbed-only novella has made me, in 9 months, more than a typical MM paperback advance would have earned me. Plus I’m seeing royalties every month, rather than having been given an advance and then waiting 12-18 months for publication and then waiting even longer to see if I made my sell-through. And I’m paid 30-40% on the cover price as opposed to 8% at best. So, as a reader and as a (newbie) author, I dig ebooks.

    1. 70% soon. That is going to be sweet.

    2. there is as yet no second hand market for ebooks

      I imagine the TermsOfService/UserLicense would prevent such a thing.

      1. Which is another reason why electronic formats suck. When you have a real book, you have both the rights to the content as well as ownership of a physical object to dispose of as you see fit.

    3. All of my work is available in PDF, Kindle and paperback. Guess which one has not sold a single thing? That’s right, PDF, the one every geek I know or read whines that they want available. Cross platform, blah, blah, blah . . . I still keep stuff on to give away freebies. All it’s good for from my experience.

  29. This article kind of felt like shovelware to me…

  30. Paper books do not require electricity to read.

    Indeed, books written in Braille can be read in total darkness.

    1. Get a solar charger for your Kindle, problem solved.

      1. Not if you live in a cave.

        1. Solar cells will work, albeit very poorly, from a primitive blazing fire. Or the gieco cavemen could just walk outside when their batteries are low.

      2. Gert a nuclear grant from Obamasiah.

        1. Get! Damn fingers AND Firefox.

  31. One thing he doesn’t mention is that of format: books can last a few centuries (well hardcover versions printed on paper with less acid).

    In 200 years no one will know how to read a kindle formatted file.

    Of course that won’t matter to me, unless those nanotech guys get to work on longevity. come on guys!

    1. In 200 years no one will know how to read a kindle formatted file.

      Bullshit. With a scanner, and a few years, i could run punch card programs on my current computer.

      I’m not sayin it’ll be plugNplay but it’s not like the content passes an event horizon or something and becomes forever lost to our universe.

      1. For those who aren’t familiar with the minutia of the video game scene, enterprising programmers have created software that emulates all the old video game systems (the Atari, the Nintendo, Super Nintendo and even more obscure stuff like the Intellivision). Kindle books will still be readable hundreds of years if there is anyone who cares to read them. If the platform dies at some point, people will take the steps to preserve things at that time.

        1. And when that day comes you’ll be able to run your kindle emulator in your dreamcast emulator thats running linux that your’re running in a virtual PC on a Mac.

  32. And I miss all the old used bookstores.

    I, also.

    It’s nice to be able to just order something from Alibris, but it’s just better when you’re wandering around a used bookstore, and something you haven’t even thought about for decades jumps out at you and says, “Take me home!”

    1. Yep, I agreed with SF up above that I missed the hunt, but it isnt the hunt so much as the discovery of something else.

      As a poet once said:

      You cant always get what you want
      But if you try sometimes, well you might find you’ll get what you need

      1. The pleasures of browsing. I’m totally with you on that, robc.

        There are still I lot of great used shops (music and book) but they are getting consolidated.

      2. Yes, browsing really doesn’t work online. You have to search for something rather than just looking around.

  33. “The institutions of publishing have, like the institutions of other print media, already shown themselves to be completely unserious about loosening the restrictions that make them uncompetitive. Retail prices have not come down in any degree that reflects changing reality.” Another great example of the free market bull.

    1. I’m not sure what you mean. This is a great example of market forces in action. Companies are not providing what customers want, so they go out of business.

      Sounds like free market ideals to me.

      1. If I want to read a particular book, there is no substitute. I have to purchase it on the terms of the publisher (unless I can illegally obtain a copy online). This greatly slows down typical market forces. If bookstores got ahold of their books for free, their profit margins would steadily decrease until they were only making money by selling the service of stocking the book. With the publishers maintaining rights to the intellectual works, they are able to keep prices high.

        1. Books aren’t interchangeable [because they’re all different], but they are substitutable.

          If someone put a bomb in my ribcage that would go off if I ever read Heinlein again, that would suck. No more reading Heinlein for me. But there would still be more sci-fi books available than I could ever read in my entire lifetime. I can substitute those other authors’ work for Heinlein’s, even though the individual works aren’t interchangeable.

  34. Not that it matters, but publishers (the big 6) are doing a lot with POD versions of the backlist.

    Maybe you’re looking for a gee-whiz thing like the Espresso machine, and… may take a while, but Random owns part of a POD company, Penguin’s signed on with Ingram, there are rumored deals among other houses with B&T, etc. Amazon too, with their Booksurge/CreateSpace thing.

    ‘Course, with print costs, POD titles cost more than regular trade books, but… there you go.

  35. I will admit that this is totally paranoid. But there is something to be said for having things on paper because they can’t be changed so easily. One could imagine a world where paper documents no longer existed and everyone owned Kindles. Who is to say a government or corporation couldn’t go in an alter books and other things to make them more to their liking. For example, just go in and take out all of the racial slurs in Huck Fin. Since we would no longer have the originals, who could say definitively that the new versions were the wrong ones?

    1. This is a problem that I don’t know the answer to.

      Hopefully, if copies of ebooks are ubiquitous enough, the government will have the same problem it has with paper books – it’s just too hard to track them all down.

      1. Besides, I’m pretty sure someone, somewhere, would be all “I could swear this book used to have the word nigger in it. Hmmmm.” and mention it to others. It wouldn’t just get shrugged off.

        1. Eventually that generation would die off. And everyone would just remember the altered versions. Look, a good portion of things like Aristotle and Plato are considered to at least possibly be fake; things added in by bored monks copying the text and the like. Over the long hall, it is easier than you think to change something.

          1. So, back to the point:

            How are eBooks any worse than pBooks in this regard?

    2. Huck Finne without racist epithets just isn’t Huck Finne. That’s not the book Twain wrote! Besides, quoting that old-fashioned shit is the only a white dude can get the heartfelt satisfaction of dropping an N-bomb, guilt free. Cracker please!

  36. In 2179 CE, the E-Library at New Alexandria was burned, and historians mourned the loss of this irreplaceable archive.

    1. In 2179 CE, the E-Library at New Alexandria was burned hit with an EMP, and historians mourned the loss of this irreplaceable archive.

      1. Yup.

        1. Thankfully some industrious “hackers” had illicitly copied the entire archive. Restoration from this back-up is underway and expected to be complete sometime in 2212.

          1. That “somebody” turned out to be a band of rednecks in the backwoods with old-fashioned 200 Mbps DSL groundlines, some old PCs with 250 GB hard drives they’d gotten at salvage prices from local government auctions, and regularly updated installations of classic P2P file distribution programs such as ?Torrent.

            In addition to their electronic stockpiles, some of which had been transferred to slightly newer solid-state terabyte drives, the shelves of their homes were still lined with dusty old books from many a different era, from ancient tomes of Aristotle and St. Augustine’s works up to the complete Twilight series of Stephenie Meyer. The only books they didn’t have, apart from a few that hadn’t survived the great CPSIA purge of 2009, were a few truly obnoxious and obscure works by the likes of Al Gore, Tony Campolo, Al Franken, Pat Buchanan, and George Soros, whose works they consumed in their wood-burning stoves in the terrible Winter of 2011 when the EPA’s eco-fascist troops shut down the local coal-burning power plants in compliance with new environmental regulations designed to combat a supposedly imminent Global Warming apocalypse. Today, only rarely-read fragments of these dubious authors’ works are still available to contemporary readers.

            A great many of the preserved works (the ones these noble rural countrymen saw fit to read for themselves) had been “jail-broken” using ancient programs and hacking methods that contemporary librarians and historians are just beginning to rediscover through interviews of the elderly survivors and their descendants. “Jail-breaking” consisted of systematically stripping the digitized books of all digital rights management either through scanners and print-recognition programs or illegal DRM-decryption and cut-and-paste clipboard programs which permitted the users to copy the text in some usually legible form to their illicit open-source word processors.

            Today, while brute-force decryption keying programs continue to assist in unlocking some of the long-kept secrets of our ancestors, many contemporary neo-archaeologists find that manually retyping old hard copies too yellowed with age to be scanned takes less time than breaking the encryption on their digital counterparts, just as it did for the reclusive rednecks who preceded them.

  37. Another great example of the free market bull.

    Ooh, what a zinger.


    But there is something to be said for having things on paper because they can’t be changed so easily.

    I recently bought a coy of Mencken”s A Carnival of Buncombe; I specifically went for the 1956 edition, to avoid any danger of getting a version which had been “cleaned up” by a modern editor.

    1. I have several editions of some books (cookbooks, mostly) because the information in them changes when they release the revised edition, and the changes are often substantial.

    2. John has a point. It’s much easier to censor an ebook’s file at a central location than it is to hunt down several million in-print copies of “antisocial” material…and just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean…well, you know. But such wide-scale witch hunts could never happen. Right, China? Soviet Russia? Nazi Germany?

  38. I don’t own a Kindle and don’t plan to. For one thing, my understanding is that you don’t actually own the e-book; it’s stored on Amazon’s servers and you have access to it. I prefer actually owning my books.

    Another issue for me is durability. I commute an hour every day on the subway and do most of my reading then. Between the jostling, climbing stairs, getting caught in the rain, etc., everything I carry with me tends to get beat up. Having a book cover get bent or torn, or having a few pages tatter, bothers me much less than breaking a delicate electronic device would.

    And I agree with John and others about the content of particular books being “cleaned up”. It’s not like it doesn’t happen on the internet all the time, if that’s any indication.

    1. That’s one of the reasons I chose not to buy a Kindle. I do own the books I put on my Sony. My version of the ereader (PRS 505) isn’t wireless – I have to physically download the book from my laptop. In light of what Amazon did in the Great Orwell(ian) Debacle, however, I think that’s a feature and not a bug. Sony’s latest versions are now wireless, but you actually download the content.

      So far, mine has proven to be hardy as well. It lives in my purse, which is not a safe environment for much of anything. I keep it in a leather cover, which in turn I put in a hand-sewn, zippered ebook cozy that even a gay man wouldn’t be caught dead with.

      1. It actually is also possible to backup Kindle books to your PC. The people who got Orwelled simply hadn’t been doing that.

        But hey, if you already have a Sony, there’s no need for you to switch. The Sony is great.

  39. I have a Kindle. It is a bazillion times better than paper and ink in a gillion obvious ways.

  40. For one thing, my understanding is that you don’t actually own the e-book; it’s stored on Amazon’s servers and you have access to it.

    Actually, I believe a copy of the book is downloaded to your Kindle, so you can read it when you aren’t hooked up to the tubez.

    Now, next you do get hooked up to Amazon, they can probably delete books from your Kindle (or alter them), so this may be a distinction without a difference.

  41. I have an answer ready for anyone who asks if I’m using Twitter – ‘Oh, that’s *so* 2009! Get with the times, dude!’ I won’t be specific about what cool new thing I’m using that makes Twitter obsolete; I’ll just suggest that all the cool people are doing whatever-it-is and let the other guy go mad trying to figure out how I became more *au courant* than him.

    Of course, I wouldn’t really do that, because it would be wrong.

    But if I wait long enough for whatever replaces Twitter, then I will be able to boast that I never fell for that outdated stuff, and when people say they still use it, I will say, ‘huh huh, I bet you still have Beta on your VHS, huh huh!’

    1. At this point they note that you don’t seem to know that Beta and VHS were competing forms of the same thing, and realize you have no idea what you’re talking about and likely never did. They’ll just share that “Geeze, old people,” look and walk away.

  42. The most avid book readers I know, and there’s a lot fewer of them those who admit they are, are addicted to the SMELL of books. I used to love to go to the book store with my brother when I was a kid just to watch him open a book, stick his nose up against the paper where the binding is, and often make his decision based on smell. On the rare occasion I go to a used book store, I see other people do this once in a while.

  43. “Old fartisanship” is my new Notable Quotable this week.

  44. I have an idea! For all those ebook aficionados who fear file, hardware and OS obsolescence, just buy a cheap printer, copy each page, bind them, and…oh. Never mind.

  45. I must say, it warms my tiny, blackened libertarian heart to see the love of books and reading on this comment thread.

  46. “Print is dead.” (Ghostbusters, 1984)

  47. Why would you spent 15 bucks on a Kindle book? So I don’t have to store the fucking thing. I probably spend 50 bucks a month on the square footage to store my book collection; if I could I’d get it all on my Kindle and put a gym in that space.

    Anybody who is wholly anti-e-book clearly hasn’t had to move them anytime in recent memory.

    1. Why stop at books? How about we store all our artwork electronically? Those damn paintings take up too much wall space. And moving them? Forget about it!

  48. I’ve got 1800 volumes in storage that I put there in the last year. Yeah, it sucks to move them. I move about once a decade. BFD. Moving the couch is a bigger pain in the ass.

  49. Last year I was paging through my copy of Sweet’s Anglo Saxon Reader (1886 edition) and noticed that a certain Jean McCallister had inscribed the book in March of 1909. I immediately inscribed my name in 2009. When, in 2109 someone else will possibly inscribes their name, last year’s Kindle will be recycled dust and all the electrons in it dispersed to the universe.

    This is not some arty, overly romantic view of “The Book” as artifact. There is substantial economic value in a physical store of information, just as there is a substantial store of economic value in gold. Times changes but I can still read 100 year old books and spend 100 year old gold coins. A century from now, the Kindle won’t even be a memory and today’s paper dollar won’t buy you a square of toilet paper.

    1. But it will *be* a square of toilet paper.

      1. A rectangle of toilet paper, anyway.

        I plan on engineering myself to remove the need for toilet paper by then.

        1. Ah, a transhumanist. Perhaps you could use virtual toilet paper in order to maintain a romantic link to your biological past.

  50. Can you get the Rosetta Stone on Kindle?

    1. Not from Amazon. You can try loading it yourself, but carving the glyphs into the screen voids the warranty.

      1. Simulate them with a marker.

  51. non-fiction, non-fiction, non-fiction, non-fiction. programming manuals, cookbooks, textbooks. They are the main reason ebooks and the Kindle, even in its current overpriced DRM laden form, are far superior to books.

    Also: ebooks by authors who were born before our current copyright laws were put into place (or before the US even existed for that matter) cost you $0.00.

  52. Books are easy to skim,

    I love to read books and digital works. Hell I read the damn cereal box at breakfast if I don’t have a paper. But I disagree with this statement on at least one level. Due to volume of read material and my lack or retention I often find myself going back to a work to get more specific content derived from my vague memory of the content and book it was in. There is one function that I wish existed outside my computer. That is CTRL F. Being a data hound and constantly needing to look things up that I’ve forgotten the specifics about, the ctrl f function has saved me hours, or days, or possibly years of searching.

    The thing I hate about digital works is the inability to annotate with ease. I get done with a book and it often looks like some sort of cross referenced archive from hell with comments ranging from “WTF moronic” to “research this.” Even how the annotation is made can lead to insight into about what I was thinking or how I felt when it was made. All of that is lost when with computer based text.

    I love both. It’s not uncommon for me to be doing research or just looking into something and have 10 tabs up on my computer with 4 books open on my desk and few journals scattered around.

    I think the current synergy between digital and traditional information is absolutely amazing, and the greatness of the ability to use all of these forms of information at one time is not only lost on the younger generations, but the older generations as well.

    1. I find that attitude odd. I price my e-versions much lower than pulp and wish I could drop the pulp prices to the same price.

      1. I can’t face the idea of self publishing. Just thinking about it exhausts me. I’ve got a buddy, a fellow romance/wimmens’ fic writer, who self publishes and does a hell of a job – professional editing, gorgeous typesetting, clean and efficient website. She pays an editor and does her print runs through a self-pub house, but does all the online stuff, including the typesetting, herself. And she operates at a profit.

        Me, I have not the entrepreneurial spirit. If my epublisher doesn’t buy the full length I’ve submitted, I’ll try a couple of other of the big e houses and then maybe I’ll think about the Amazon route.

        I’ve sold about 6K of the novella. But if I self-pubbed the second book, there’s no way I’d reach the same 6K readers.

  53. This thread is long, and probably dead. But for posterity:

    My wife and I own, between us, somewhere in excess of 1500 books. That’s a lot of books. We reread them quite often. We don’t really have space for them, and many of them are in storage in the basement. We don’t like to buy new books simply because we don’t have room for them in our house anymore, and our house is pretty large.

    Finding a book I want to reread is not trivial. Our shelves are double-stacked, with a row of books in front of a row of books. Sometimes the book I want is in a box, and I don’t know which one. Sometimes I reread three books of a series and then can’t find book 4.

    My wife loves Terry Pratchett and rereads his stuff every night before bed to basically de-stress with something fun and familiar. His collected works are substantial enough that this doesn’t often involve the same book twice in a row.

    For Christmas I bought her every single Pratchett novel for her Kindle, including ones we have in paperback and hardback. We are now storing all the Pratchett in the basement happily, knowing we can reread it without a trip downstairs and a hunt through several boxes.

    The Kindle is awesome.

    1. I hope for your sake that there is never a contract dispute with Terry Pratchett over digital rights. I also hope for your sake that the document format remains valid. I think you understand my point.

      1. In other words, better get busy jail-breaking those lovely Terry Pratchett novels for posterity’s sake, pal.

  54. Thanks, Tim, for the shout-out. I’m glad someone appreciates my ability to work a moreover and an indeed into a single paragraph. But you’re wrong about me leaving out the fact that you don’t need electricity to operate a book. I actually make a fairly elaborate Twilight Zone joke about it. Normally, I wouldn’t feel the need to point this out, but you use an image from “Time Enough At Last” in your post, and that’s the Twilight Zone episode I’m referencing.

    That said, your final question — why is anybody trying to reproduce the book? — is a really good one. The nearly 200 comments (at the time of this comment) trailing this post also suggest it has struck some sort of chord. Of course, the ability, on a whim, to tackle a vaguely hot-button issue while it’s still hot; link to a bunch of other articles about it; and instantly get people’s feedback are things blogs let you do, not books. This, I gather, was part of your point.

    1. Thanks, Matt. I was referring to the list of Zaid’s point, which you were paraphrasing. However, I can see how it looks like I was referring to your whole post, so I have changed the language to reflect that.

    2. Re: Burgess Meredith, I already had him set aside when writing a response to the Agin piece. I was lucky enough to come across your excellent work while doing that post. So I’m going to claim the Hey, two people can decide to make movies about comets hitting the Earth at the same time! explanation, which less wordy folks call great minds thinking alike.

      Say a prayer for Mr. Henry Bemis.

  55. I have read dozens of books on my Kindle. I gave my old one to my dad when I bought my new one, and he reads with it every day.

    The way I see it, it’s not replacing anything. It’s just another option. Cable and VHS and DVDs and instant streaming haven’t replaced movie theaters. More choices are better than fewer, aren’t they?

  56. Good riddance to “traditional” pubishing. We’re to believe that it’s the “good” books that eventually see pubication. But “good” is defined, and subsequently forced upon the public, by agents and publishers who admit they published only what has “appeal” to them. So what sees pubication isn’t always a matter of being “good” but only the work of an author who refused to take “No” for an answer. The most you can therefore truthfully say is that published books–aside from anything with a celebrity name attached–represents only the most determined writers, not the “best” of the available books.

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