The thing is: the book is quite a clever concept. A bundle of knowledge, strapped together by pieces of leather... well, once by leather... But it is the concept of the book which matters, whether in hard cover or in soft cover.
“What about an electronic cover?”
“How can something electronic be a cover? It is virtual.”
“Therefore it does not exist?”
“Yes, I mean no. I mean, it must exist if we can still read its pages.”
“But that doesn’t make it a book.”
“Not even an electronic book?”
“Call me a romantic. I still like the smell of leather... Well, something to hold in my hands.”
“I hold my Kindle in my hands. Can even hold it and turn the pages with the same hand.”
*insert awkward pause
“Anyhow, I liked things the way they were.”
“Writing on stone, you mean.”
“Now let’s not go to extremes.”
“Me go to extremes!”
The thing is, electronic books, electronic information of any type, excites me. No, it is not a fetish. I simply like access to anything, anywhere, at any time. Many of you will claim that I have become a part of the “me now” generation which demands immediate satisfaction, and can do with nothing less. But I will have nothing to do with this.
I have always had a fascination for books. I would travel with my parents and suddenly disappear. They knew then to search for the nearest bookstore. Opening a book was an exploration, an exploration into a parallel universe from whence I emerged changed, even if only in a small way. But so much has happened since. It used to be that a teacher could stand up at the front of a one room schoolhouse and teach students all there was needed to know. A set of encyclopedias could contain all of the information of both the modern and ancient worlds. Dictionaries could contain an accurate list of vocabulary and not need to be updated for decades. But then came the information explosion. Books became out of date almost before they were published. A wise teacher soon realized that s/he could no longer be a valid source of information but should rather serve as “facilitator”, in leading students to search, find and properly evaluate information. Huge conglomerations which once controlled the access to knowledge, have now lost their control over us. And writers can now easily turn out their novels on a computer, and even go way of self-publishing rather than suffer years of rejection at the hands of literary agents and publishers who are becoming less and less willing to take chances in a market whose bottom is falling out.
When I finally got my own novel published, I had no idea what was waiting for me in the literary world. Bookstores, however big, can not even represent a fraction of what is out there. Many of you will claim that most of the books published today are probably not even worth printing. But the thing is, there are many good books out there which would have never gotten published otherwise. And I, personally, take this to be the decisive factor: not the surplus of what we consider unworthy, but rather the absence of what should be there.
But what I have found to be even more compounding is how social networks offer an interactive platform in which readers and writers come together - where readers and writers no longer sit in worlds clearly separate, but are now accountable to each other. Writing has become a social experience in ways never conceived of before.
And I realize now that being a writer not only means that I should write books, but that I also should bring something back to books and writers that I read. This is why I began my own book review blog - “The Virtual Muser eBook Review”. And I must say that I am learning as much from this experience as I am from my own writing.
Books are here to stay. Maybe not in the way that you would expect or hope them to. But they have been here forever, at least in the human experience. Whether they were written in stone, or told and passed down from generation to generation. Think of it: the concept has never changed. And what about the need?
You might say, then - why even sell books? Why not just put them up there for anybody to download? Isn’t the message the thing that is important? You may or may not be surprised to hear that more and more writers are doing exactly this. Is this the beginning of a serious trend? We will wait and find out.