Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

On Wolves and Fish

I wrote this post last night and, after publishing it, hit the wrong X and the post was GONE. I was just sick about it, since it was really good. So here is what I've been able to dredge from the dust-bunny-riddled recesses of my mind:

I have finally done it! I made Small Deceptions an e-book! It's OUT! I'm so excited about the prospect of tossing my book out into the ether river and watching the nickels and dimes float in--kind of like being licked to death by a chihuahua.

There's something so poignant about watching your children leave the sanctuary of your heart to go out and seek their fortunes. Now there are other works, still unclothed and shivering, waiting for their snow boots and fluffy coat before I push them out into the storm to be pelted by ice balls. At least I know that I can do it, now. Don't forget your mittens, my babies! (I know I'm mixing metaphors but I like the visual.)

I send them out over the ether with a little trepidation. For one thing, everyone and their dog got a Kindle or Nook or I-pad for Christmas. The "Going thing" is the e-book. I'm not sure if it's because of all the times I read and watched Fahrenheit 451 or my own latent paranoia, but I worry about putting all our fish in one basket. For this reason I have more books than clothes in my house. I can't imagine not getting a new stack of books for every holiday. I'd rather buy books than chocolate.

However, I, as have many authors, have jumped blithely into the river. New manuscripts are jamming the airwaves like salmon swimming upriver to spawn. For merely a gallon of sweat and a few (sometimes) tortured hours at the computer, we can crank out about anything. And like what happens to salmon at the end of the river, some books end as a shredded hash. Many of the books I've read on my own new Christmas Kindle are exquisite, but some have come to a bad end. Those have raggedy andy kerning, grammar and spelling mistakes, and a host of other errors.
                                         Photograph by Ian McAllister/Getty Images

Another reason this whole e-book thing bothers me is that they are pulling so many customers out of the river that bookstores are dying. Take, for example, one of my favorite stores, Barnes and Noble. It's a giant chain store and it's closing stores at an alarming rate! B&N! I always thought that it was sad Borders went down, but I always had my favorite back-ups.

Now I'm not so sure. Another favorite, Latterday Cottage (Bookstore), is struggling. It's not just an over-extension thing which is happening to the big stores. It's happening across the board. Books are disappearing off of their shelves, not because they're not being stocked, but because they don't have the money to buy new product. People are at home thumbing through their device of choice, not spending delicious hours grazing.

While I like the idea of shopping from the comfort of my own home sometimes, there is something to be said for walking into the store and taking a deep breath--pulling the scent of new books inside yourself. There's something for losing yourself in the luscious stacks of books; for being able to look over at the oddball next to you in the slouchy pants, stocking cap, and muffler and seeing what he's reading. I like to be able to grin at the person next to me and say, "I know this author! She (or he) is a fantastic person!" I enjoy going and sitting cross-legged in the children's section and remembering what Terabithia looked like in my head. I love being able to tell the grinning salesperson that I loved their store or a particular book and have them give me that knowing look which says they understand my love of print on paper.

You can't get those experiences on-line. There's a great little fast click and you're done. No contact, eye or otherwise--just an invisible fairy delivering your print to your device.

The most worrisome part is this: all of these books swimming upstream have attracted wolves--wolves who want to control what the public may read. These wolves have already tried several times to control what we post or read on the Internet under the guise of pirating abatement. There was a huge outcry and the wolves have backed away for a bit--at least on the surface. They'll get their measures passed somehow, as their main goal is power. Knowledge is power and they want to control it.

So when the bookstores and print publishing houses go down, we will be at the mercy of those wolves. I know this sounds far-fetched, but it can easily happen. The means are in place as we speak. There are countries all over the world who know about this problem first hand. I've been to or lived in many of them. I'll tell you right now that the wolves are very real and very vicious.

We can't let the siren call of the Internet bleed away our possibilities. We can't let our bookstores and publishing houses go down from neglect. Hold back the wolves and let the books come home and go out. Let my babies fly freely out into the arms of people who will love them.

Swim, my pretties!

1 comment:

  1. That said, it sure is handy to buy books at the poke of a few buttons. I must say that I am really enjoying my new kindle. I suppose you might call it a guilty pleasure.