On my way home from work on this cyber-Monday evening I heard an interesting segment on my local NPR station discussing the steps that brick-and mortar bookstores are taking to convince shoppers not only to come in (rather than shop for books online) but also to buy actual, paper books rather than e-books.
Their rationale is simple: there are some things a real book can add to your experience that an e-book simply doesn’t have: the tactile element, the coffee-table-show-off element, the signed-by-the-author-first-edition-that-will-increase-in-valvue element, etc. These are the selling points booksellers, and publishers, are focusing on to compete with the easy information-delivery of e-books: design aspects, paper quality, permanence. One bookstore has even gone so far as to create a first-edition club, like a wine-of-the-month club, where you sign up and they send you a new first-edition hardcover, signed by the author, every month with which to build your personal library.
I’m with them. I have a shelf of first edition books and another shelf for author-signed books in my “library,” and they’re special to me. And though, in a pinch or on a trans-Atlantic flight, I might read a book on an e-reader, I am a true aficionado of the real-book reading experience. I love the feel of various textured papers between my fingers, the smells of various types of ink and binding, the freedom to pore over illustrations in picture books, the ability to flip back to re-read something, and the sense of place that’s imparted by the thickness of pages in my right hand versus my left.
I sometimes have trouble imagining what it’ll be like to experience this with a book I wrote, but I’m very much looking forward to it. Also, I can say from personal experience with my editor, that Putnam is very aware of this trend and is working hard to make sure that the hardcover first edition of GOLDEN BOY is an amazing sensory experience as well as being a good read.
So, in conclusion: long live the book-book! Happy cyber-Monday, everyone.