On Tuesday, the esteemed author, attorney, and reviewer, Jonathan Kirsch, invited me to join the New York Times reporter Motoko Rich and tech journalist Peter Kafka in a broadcast Jonathan hosted on "The Politics of Culture" at KCRW. http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/pc/pc100209ibooks_ebooks_and_th
A lively discussion ensued about the eBook revolution in American publishing, a subject close to my heart. But time was limited and my grievances many; so I decided to allow myself this indulgence and share what I missed to mention in the broadcast.
Author + Kindle = a guilty conscience. Am I contributing to the, God forbid, demise of the book as we know it?
Just two years ago, the Kindle was such a rare commodity people would approach me to find out what type of a gadget it was, or else ask if I cared to demonstrate how it worked. Nowadays, it is common to see people engaged in reading on all types of eBooks. Last month, I was stopped at security in LAX. Throughout my many years of travelling, I have perfected the art of passing airport security with flying colors--no liquids in purse, shoes and coat off, laptop in separate bin. But here I was pulled to the side, my purse confiscated. Without blinking an eye, the security officer asked whether I carried a Kindle in my purse. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Kindle has arrived! It has joined the venerable ranks of the laptop and requires a bin of its own to pass airport security.
Just yesterday, an article in the LA Times mentioned a young Japanese girl who wrote an entire novel on her cell phone. She became one of Japan's top selling authors, sold 110,000 paperback copies and grossed more than $611,000 in sales since last May--impressive numbers to those of us who are not the Grishams, Rowlings, and Meyers of our industry. These cell phone novels are far from great literary masterpieces, even so, please, please explain to me how in the world is it possible to read an entire novel on the tiny screen of a cell phone and enjoy it too? Yet. It is happening all around the world. Technology is changing the book industry. And, alas, I am contributing to the speed of this movement. It pains me to think that the digital distribution of books might one day overtake the printed word, endangering the book to an extent that it might become a rare and precious collector's item like records have become for the music industry. Pains me to think that we might lose our bookstores, where booksellers hand sell our books to avid readers, where it's possible to spend hours among stacks of books that hold all types of delicious surprises, and even ask strangers whether they've read something they'd recommend. Are we becoming a nation of loners that visit virtual libraries, do not care for the warmth of a well-worn cover, the evidence of our reading on shelves in our homes, the pleasure of returning to classics read in high school and be greeted by our own annotations in the margins? I hope not.
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