(mostly) not sentimental about books

There was a post on Slate a few days ago called "Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller: Buying books on Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you." You may have heard about it. There was a bit of a furor.

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.


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4 Responses to (mostly) not sentimental about books

  1. Tiyana says:

    “Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller” is a bit extreme of a title…but yeah. In this day and age the bookstore is obsolete in my life; I haven’t been to one in ages. Though when I do go it’s nice to just browse and mosey around. Thing is even then I don’t usually buy stuff from there.

    Even so, I wouldn’t tell other people to not support their favorite bookstores.

    Anyway, I don’t tend to get sentimental about books, either, though there are a few that I treasure. Very few…

  2. sonje says:

    I go regularly to a Barnes & Noble with my kids. They love running through the store. They love the cafe. They love all the toys. And yes, they love to pick out books to read too. We always spend money there (the aforementioned cafe), and we often buy a book or toy that is relatively inexpensive (no more than $15), but if the price of the book (or toy) goes much above that, I do return home to order it from amazon.

    We really like the bookstore experience, so I hope they stick around.

    • Tiyana and Sonje: I think bookstores will continue to exist in some form, because they do serve a somewhat different purpose than Amazon. As I said, this was the problen with the Slate piece, the either-or construction. Record stores are mostly gone, I believe, but record stores are not bookstores (and records, LPs, CDs are not books).

      Oh, and Tiyana, there are individual books that I’m attached to. It’s the form of the”book” that does not mean much to me, apart from the words it contains.

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