Friday, October 12

Why I Love to Hate eBooks

Okay, so I don’t hate eBooks . . .

Deep as I am in the throes of writing my own novella – which may very well be published as an eBook – I would never want to be accused later on of biting the hand that feeds me.

(We’ll see about that.)

It’s more like this: I don’t consider eBooks real books, like Pinocchio wasn’t a real boy.

They’re alike, but they’re not the same.

Not even close.

eBooks don’t give me the same warm, fuzzy feeling that real books do, and if there’s anything you love the way I love writing, reading, the craft of words, then you know the warm, fuzzy feeling I’m talking about – and you know it’s big friggin’ deal.

I suppose I’m being a bit snooty . . . but then I’m not snooty about much.

Boxing, books, and beer – that’s it.

(Ali was a god who walked amongst men and Coors Light isn’t for drinking, it’s for playing beer pong, dagnabbit!) 

Something, I’m simply saying, has been lost in the transition from real books to eBooks.

For one thing, an eBook could never be my book. It couldn’t belong to me the way both my copies of The Last Unicorn do, one I’ve high-lighted front to back and continue to make notes in, one I’ve kept immaculate. It couldn’t belong to me the way my mother’s ancient volume of Shakespearean sonnets does, its spine hanging on by but threads, its gilded pages musty and yellow with time.

My "good" copy.
Hell, an eBook couldn’t even belong to me the way a perpetually damp issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact – my dad’s favorite magazine – that I borrowed/stole from a hostel in Wollongong, Australia does. No eBook was ever such a vagabond, as no Kindle or Nook will ever have those same cute little wrinkles that a book gets along it’s spine from being laid facedown for lack of a bookmark because they don’t have spines – or pages, for that matter!

But as much as all that stuff drives me cuh-crazy, it goes beyond the flesh and bones of a book . . .

You see, in a real book’s leather-bound entirety – all books being massive leather-bound tomes in my perfect world, like at Hogwarts – it’s quite easy to forget how its author edited and re-edited, toiling and toiling, unable to sleep at times for the thousand and one nuances of their story that had yet to be properly placed, worded, or written down at all.

In its completeness, page numbers and every comma correctly in place, a good book can seem so effortless that it’s easy to forget that it did not in fact spring fully formed from the author’s head, like the goddess Athena from Zeus’ cracked skull.

Oh, quite the contrary.

Before, when our forefathers (and mothers) had to “walk to and from the bus stop barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways!” getting published was possibly even less fun.

Here’s the five-second version, courtesy of Wikipedia.

“Back in the day,” writers used to have to jump through hoop after flaming hoop just to get their work out there, to be able to release it into the jungle of literary works that we now call a Barnes & Noble, not knowing whether or not it’d be able to hold its own until it did or didn’t.

Selecting the font that work would be read in, selecting the color and weight of the paper it would be printed on were a writer’s final acts of love, formal wear given to the final product of their passion and dedication before sending it out into the world.

Nowadays, all you have to do is upload a Word document and press a button.

Sounds rather unceremonious, doesn’t it . . . ?

It's anticlimactic, at best . . . and bittersweet.

On the one hand, my chances of being published are better than they have ever been, statistically. On the other hand, I think I wish they weren’t.

As the popularity of online publishing rises and the quality of popular literature declines, it feels more and more as though the time of the greats (boxers and writers) has passed, and with it my opportunity to truly be tested.

I know throwing my hat in a ring where Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey are considered “heavyweights” is asking to be disappointed, but should it come to that . . . that too shall be a labor of love.

Kindle and Nooks be damned!

XO, Mal


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