Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Tacky, Plastic Wave of the Future

There's an old saying: If you can't beat 'em, complain about 'em!

I just received our monthly sales report for Monday Night Jihad yesterday and noticed that we had taken a huge jump in our ebook sales. Admittedly, "huge jump" means we sold 43 in October, but, compared to the 17 we've sold in the previous nine months, that is quite the increase (a 2,150% increase in monthly sales if my high school accounting class is still working - which it's probably not).

Looking at that number, I have to admit that I'm a little torn. While it's great to see people buying the book (although I have no clue what Jason's and my percentage is off of an ebook, and I'm not quite interested enough to fire off an email to our agent to find out), I'm still not sure how I feel about the ebook revolution - "revolution" probably being a bit too strong of a word; it's probably akin to calling it a revolution if the states of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire would suddenly rise up and secede from the Union (seriously, apart from the spike in maple syrup prices, who would notice?).

I guess it comes down to what exactly is a book. My Mac dictionary widget was less than helpful, giving me two definitions: one describing a "paper-glued-to-binding" tangible work; the second describing it as a literary composition intended for publication. I tend to lean toward the former.

To me, books have a feel and a smell. There's just something about the way words look printed on an actual sheet of paper that has actually come from an actual former tree. I get a rush of excitement when I can see how close I am to the end of a story by tilting the book and eyeballing the pages I've read compared to the pages left to go. I love the way I can measure my progress through a thick, classic paperback by watching the wrinkles spread slowly across the spine. I doubt that even the rumored 2.0 version of Amazon's Kindle will let you do that.

Now, I don't want you to get the impression that I'm some modern day Luddite. I'm all for progress. I love the latest electronic gadgets. I'm still waiting for the day when God causes an iPhone to fall out of the sky and into my hand (and then miraculously lets me use it with a service other than AT&T). However, there are some things that should just not be messed with. Think how much better our society would be if we had not allowed so many other things to fall by the wayside in the name of progress, e.g., vinyl records, glass bottles, banana seats for bikes, styrofoam containers from McDonalds [no styrofoam, no McDLT, 'nuff said], the original members of Van Halen, the staunch refusal of all my friends to allow use of the phrase "24/7" into their common parlance, and Sean Connery as James Bond).

But, for all my blustering reminiscences about the way things were, I look at my life now and see that I drink sodas out of cans and enjoy watching Daniel Craig as OO7 (although you'll still never catch me saying "24/7" or listening to any post-"Eddie's-learned-to-play-the-keyboards-so-let's-way-overuse-his-new-found-skill" CD). And, honestly, I have no doubt that in the same way I reluctantly left vinyl for CDs (and now iPods), there will come a time when I will hold some plastic book substitute in my hands just because it's the wave of the future. I will eventually bow to progress, even if it takes the form of a cheap-feeling, slow-page-turning, weird-button-placed "wireless reading device."

So, for all you Kindle users out there, some day I'll join you, dragging my heels all the way. In the mean time, if you so desire, feel free to keep purchasing the ebook versions of Monday Night Jihad and of Blown Coverage (when it's out) - I promise I won't hold it against you.

No comments: