Stuck in the Middle of the Book Battle

Here’s an example of understatement:  The book industry is in turmoil right now.

Spend just a few minutes on the internet and you’ll find a wide variety of people gnashing their teeth and climbing up on their soapbox to proclaim what’s wrong and how to fix it.  According to the site you read, Amazon is either destroying books (and life as we know it), or single-handedly rescuing authors from the dark dungeon of traditional publishing. Self-published authors are either the forward-thinking saviors of the written word or fools who think they can write well and be successful without agents and editors and publishers helping them.

The waters are further muddied by the fact that the battle lines aren’t clearly drawn.  Some authors love Amazon and aren’t fond of independent bookstores that have limited shelf space, with no room for their books.  Some authors hate Amazon and ask their readers to support independent bookstores.  Readers are just as divided between Amazon, B&N, and the independent stores.  While the publishers and Amazon are pretty clearly on different sides, if you look hard enough you can find agents and publishers who do support Amazon, at least partly.

As I watch this all unfold, I’m fascinated by the plot complexities, and also by the passionate arguments everyone makes for the “right” way to handle books, the either/or stance many people are taking.  Are eBooks evil?  Destroying literacy?  I don’t get that—if you’re reading an eBook you’re actually reading, right?   I personally still prefer a printed book, although the idea of having 3500 books on one gadget instead of piled up on the floor of my basement appeals to me.  I don’t have a Kindle, or a Nook, although I do have the apps for both on my iPad.  And yes, I have bought and read eBooks.  Some of them I enjoyed them very much and some of them I deleted without finishing, just like printed books (although with printed books “deleting” takes a little more work).  My love for printed books doesn’t make me “outdated” and I’m not just clinging to a dying format.

I’ve always been a fan of choices, and as a reader I want choices.  Sometimes I want the book the cheapest way I can get it—maybe at a used bookstore, maybe from Amazon, maybe at the library.  Sometimes I want to wander around a real bookstore and browse covers, hold the book in my hand, buy something I’ve never heard of that looks interesting.  If I’m travelling, I like having eBooks rather than a pile of printed books.  I have no desire to read someone’s self-published book if it has not been edited or proofread, if there are gaping plot holes or grammatical mistakes.  Neither do I want to read the latest traditionally published tripe from someone capitalizing on his/her 15 minutes of fame.  I want to read good books with good stories.  And honestly, where I get that book or what format that book is in really doesn’t matter much to me.

So what about the readers?  That’s the piece I think is missing from all this sound and fury.  Seems like we’re stuck in the middle of this battle, and while we might come out the winners, we might not.  And let’s not make the mistake of thinking we can easily group readers into one big category—we’re a complex group.  I’m not the “average” reader.  I don’t even know what “average reader” means.  Is “reader” even the right audience to talk about—maybe “book buyer” is more in line with what the publishers and authors and Amazon are fighting over, the people who are paying money for books.  But then what happens to libraries, and to the library patrons who can’t afford to buy the books, or a Kindle or a Nook?

Like I said earlier, lots of complexities.  I have no solution to end this battle, just a plea:  Don’t forget the readers.

What do you think about this book battle?  Has it affected you, changed your approach to reading?  To buying?  Borders friends, I know lots of you lost your jobs partly because of this—what do you think about it?


About notthatCindyCrawford

I like books, music, movies, television, sports, food, travel, learning, laughing and sitting around thinking. This blog is a place for me to have fun writing about the things I love. Let me know how I'm doing.
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5 Responses to Stuck in the Middle of the Book Battle

  1. Jeff says:

    It’s a lot to consider, isn’t it? Like you, I am someone who (1) has always been a reader (2) has been a long-term bookseller and (3) now has a novel in the works that I hope to publish. So for me, this matters on many levels.

    I don’t know have answers either, but I do think there are a couple of hopeful truths beneath the surface of the conundrum. First, I believe some people will ALWAYS need to read (to escape or to entertain or to grow). Second, I believe some people will ALWAYS need to write and be read (to escape to entertain or to grow).

    Maybe it ultimately just boils down to basic economy. If readers are forgotten at some point while the literary/publishing powers sort it all out, it will only be for a short while before someone comes along to remember them. Where there is specific demand, someone will provide satisfactory supply.

  2. jane says:

    I have no idea what the answer is, even for myself. I fully embrace the library though! And not just because I am unemployed — I think it was just instilled at a young age and continues on. Anyway – the thought of not having books in my apt is thrilling and scary at the same time. I have gotten rid of so many books at this point, that it was gotten a bit easier than it was initially. But I know I will always have some books – travel books and certainly art books. But will I someday convert the rest of my collection to ebooks? Who knows!

  3. Cheryl says:

    I am a displaced Borders employee , a lover of the printed word and a holder of a dream to someday own my own bookstore. I can’t imagine a world without physical books. I can’t see how someone can truly ‘browse’ Amazon like you can in a brick and mortar. More than half of the titles on my top ten list were discovered randomly while shelving. All that being said, I do own a Kobo and do enjoying using it – especially when traveling. My digital device will never replace the need I have for a book, tho. When I sit in my family room and glance at my bookshelves, I see the keepers of my life standing there – the books that touched me in some way – the ones that helped me work through grief, the ones that bolstered my courage, the ones that brought me to tears or made me laugh out loud…they are all there, keeping guard. I can pull any book off the shelf and call to mind the time in my life that I read it and how it spoke to me then. My Kobo sits there, too…in its pretty little cover – but it is devoid of any sentimentality for me. As the battle between print and digital rages on, it is my hope that each can have its place so that every reader’s needs can be met.

    • Well said, Cheryl! I too hope we end up with some balance between print and digital. Like you, I’m sure I’ll never get rid of all my books, but I have had to get rid of some just because I’d completely run out of space. Hopefully sane(r) heads will rule, and readers will end up with choices to suit every need.

      Good luck with your dream to own your own bookstore!

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