Friday, February 01, 2008

New Book Technology

A play in one/eighth act, by Charles

“What’s that you’re holding?”

“This? It’s a book?”

That’s a book?”

“Yeah. It’s something new. They call ‘em paperbacks.”

Paper backs? May I?”

“Sure. They’re really convenient.”

“It’s so…small. How do you read it?”

“You get used to it. The words aren’t all that much smaller than the ones in a hardcover.”

“A hardcover? Oh, I see, a real book.”

“This is a real book. It’s got all the same words, the same story. It’s just a paperback.”

“Or a soft cover, I suppose?”

“Sure, why not. I mean a book’s a book.”

“Oh please. A book is not just a book, it’s a gateway to adventure, a license to relax and experience the world through the eyes of others, it’s a time machine, a what-if machine, a steady companion, a challenging new friend—”

“So's this. It’s a book, too.”

“But where’s the richly tooled cover, the marbled end pages—”

“Those don’t make a book a book. It’s the words.”

“Yes, yes…but the experience of reading, what happens to that? Your paperback lacks the heft of a book, it’s gravitas. This? I could stuff it in my back pocket.”

“Exactly. I can take it anywhere. You can fit, what, two hardcovers in that briefcase? I can put five or six paperbacks in the same space. I never have to be without something to read.”

“That is a point in your advantage, but I hardly think that it’s a strong enough point to change the industry.”

“And it costs about half what you’d pay for the same book in hardcover.”

“Fine, but what do you have in the end? A minuscule booklet, its binding all bent and cover curled. Can you imagine someone actually displaying one of these on a bookshelf? No, I’m afraid that while there are always people like you on the fringes of society, these paperbacks will never amount to anything more than a niche market, and that will dry up once publishers see that there is no profit in it.”

“I hope not. These are great. I mean, thanks to paperbacks I can catch up on all the latest mysteries.”

“You read mysteries? Ah yes, well, that explains everything, doesn’t it.”

-Curtain -


Rick Blechta said...

Well, the Amazon offering is not quite this bad, but it's a pretty good approximation of one of the big shortcomings of this system.

Maybe if real publishers actually were involved in the production of electronic books, some shortcomings like the one you're pointing out would be a thing of the past, but they really (certainly at this point) have no reason to wish this technology well.

As with the music industry since Mp3s became the standard, though, publishing may have to change.

I hope that it doesn't, but man cannot stem change wrought by tide and time. I like my books the way they are, thanks.

Great blog entry!

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