This eBook hype, right? I’m way too busy finishing the edits on my own novel so I can send it back to the publisher, but this is getting to me enough right now so I have to write it off my chest.
Let’s say printed books go out of fashion. Bookstores close down. There are no more printed books, or only in rarity shops or on your grandmother’s shelves. Everyone reads their stuff on a Kindle or an iPad or something similar. Or listens to it on their smartphone or iPod. Probably self-publishing gets easier, anyone can put their story up there, right, and as a reader, you can browse and find whatever you want.
There are two things about this I find really disturbing, and I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, but…
Who will tell you what to edit? Who will say to you, “This is great, but you need to cut it down, change that part, consider that character again,” and help you shape your novel into a sleek, elegant book? A paid editor? Someone who will put their stamp on your work instead of kicking you into doing it yourself? Or are you maybe one of those authors who think their story is perfect right from the start and no one has a right to meddle? Come off it, friend. No one is. Are you going to throw it at readers with all its repetitions, typos, superfluous people and lame side plots? Please don’t tell me you’re good enough to see all the faults yourself. No one is. That’s what publishers are for. Really.
And then there’s this.
A book reading. This here is the amazing Neil Gaiman, reading from Graveyard Book here in Hamburg last year, and I tell you, he is the best. Hearing him read his own words to you in person brings them to life like no other medium could. And standing in line to get him to put one of his lovely drawings and his signature in the book you hold in hand is an experience I would not want to miss, and with me, hundreds of other fans that day. Obvious question: How do you sign an eBook? How will you be able to stand in front of an admired author and tell him, “I love your graphic novels, but your others are not that hot.” and have him smile at you and reply, “That’s ok. I love the graphic novels too.” Which he did, to me.
My big fear is that with this eBook thing authors will become a lot more anonymous, and I don’t want that. I want to be able to go to book readings and I want to be able to GIVE book readings some day soon. I want to meet my readers, read to them, have them ask questions about my books, my writing and my publishing experiences, heck, about whatever they care to know about me. I want to be a person behind the stories. I want to hear that cute conversation Neil Gaiman had with his then-fiancée and now-wife while he signed for me, when she commented about how he would be spending hours with his fans and she would go shopping in the meanwhile and he smirked at her and asked if she maybe was jealous of his popularity. Which earned him a slap on the shoulder.
So many things are easier, better, faster and even nicer with the internet and the many things it offers. Books, I think, need paper. And a cover to make you want to read them. Don’t you just love the smell of a new book? The excitement when you open the crackling pages for the first time? I do. And I don’t want to miss it.