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.
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