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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Indulge a Little Fetish (Claire Youmans)

There are those who prefer, sometimes to the point of fetishism, physical books. They argue that e-format books are somehow lesser because they do not incorporate the physical properties of a physical book. Taken to extremes, as it often is, I think this is an elitist view that fails to reflect the needs of actual readers, but writers are known to fall for this. It’s not “real” unless it’s on paper.= They won’t buy it unless it’s available in hard copy. If you publish in e-format, you must be publishing unedited drafts not worthy of being called “writing”. Nonsense. But they do like their physical books, and they do read.

A physical book can be beautiful, a work of visual and tactile art complementing the words, and I do my best to make sure my physical books are lovely to look at, delightful to hold, gloriously illustrated, in readable typefaces and all. I am very careful to transfer all of that when the books go into e-format, so those good things aren’t lost. The act of making a hand-bound book is without question art.

However, I just had to buy a physical book, a 6 x 9 1329 page anthology of Meiji-Taisho era fiction, because it doesn't come in e-format.  I was hoping to read this while in Japan, but I can barely lift the thing.  It would take up inordinate space in my carry-on, and there is no way it would fit in even a brief-case style purse.  It’s impossible to lug around.  I can't read it in bed, either.  Too huge to lift and manage.  It weighs, I think, five or six pounds.  To read this book, I will have to sit in a chair and specifically set aside time to read it piecemeal.  I have done this with a couple of Marly Youmans' wonderful books (a distant cousin I am proud to claim and a fabulous writer who turns literary on its head) that don't come in e-format either.  I did like, kind of, reading that way, an hour or two of an evening, enjoying both great content and beautiful products I didn't want to damage or soil, but that meant I couldn’t drink or nibble or tend the fire while reading, either.  I find I need an e-book to read at the same time, for when I can't read in the exact way the physical book demands.  Mostly, I read for content.  I find I only need a physical book when I can’t get e-format.  The very physicality of this anthology limits its use to me.  Right now, I have several hundred other books in my Kindle that I can read on the terribly long flights and while traveling, but I wanted this one.  Because it’s not an e-book, I can’t have it, and I’m sad.

I’m not the only reader who likes her e-books best. People who travel, read. People who travel love their e-readers. The affordability (changing as the Big Five make e-book prices the same as paperback, which is shameless profiteering) and convenience of e-readers benefits many other people, too. An e-reader’s a lightweight library at your fingertips, attached to a bookstore. Who could want more?

Both these groups are readers, so ignore their quibbling and publish both ways. Pay attention to both readers. I like producing beautiful physical books, of course. I think they suit some of my readers much better. I also make sure I publish in e-format, because I know that’s what I prefer. Rather than argue over who is better, rise above the fray and  accommodate both. You’ll have more readers to thank you for it.

Also check out Claire's blog and FB page and available books here:

Facebook:  The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy
Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Toki-Girl-Sparrow-Boy-Claire-Youmans/dp/0990323404/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

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