I just read a response on Salon called "What Slate doesn’t get about bookstores" (which could have been subtitled "Slate, you ignorant slut").
Both pieces are flawed (though at least Salon didn't go ad hominem, unlike Salman Rushdie who apparently tweeted that Farhad Manjoo, who wrote the Slate piece, was a idiot).
The Slate piece is flawed because (like the anti-NaNiWriMo piece I wrote about here) it poses two things as either-or which aren't either-or at all (which is always a good way to rouse up the old interwebs). The Salon piece is flawed because it tries to answer Slate's argument (which is largely about how people relate to books) by talking about how people like to hang out at bookstores (which is true, but it's not the same question). It is quite possible that the people who hang out in the bookstores then go home and order their books from Amazon, because of the enormous price differential.
But what this made me think about is how passionate a lot of people are about books, and I realized I'm not. (Though it is worth remembering that writers – and all of these pieces are written by writers, of course – may be more sentimental about books than everybody else at this point) I knew this before, of course, but this made me aware of it more clearly than I had been until now.
I love words. I love stories. But I don't love books. I like books – they've been the main way I've received words and stories until recently – but I'm not attached to them as items. For reading, books are far superior to computer screens, but e-ink screens are about as good as books for me.
But I understand the sentimental attachment, since I do feel that way about two very specific types of books.
1) Comic books should be comic books. I would not be surprised if at some point comic books will only be available on some sort of screen, and that will really be too bad. And, while I hardly ever go into bookstores (pretty much whenever Thomas Pynchon publishes a new book), I go into a comic book store every week to buy new comics (as I have been doing since 1964 – Fantastic Four #26 was the first comic book I ever bought).
2) My stuff should be books. A Sane Woman isn't available as an e-book because I don't want to do additional promotion for a book which was mostly written a long time ago (much as I like it). The next book, whatever that ends up being, will almost certainly be an e-book, but (unless print-on-demand goes away between now and then) it will also be a real book. Which is a lot of extra work, as I talked about last time, but I will still do it, because it's a book.
Other than that, just keep the stories coming, in whatever format.
Oh, and Mr. Pynchon, if you're reading this, please put your books out in e-book format. When (or if) they are ever available, I will buy at least three of them immediately.