American Spectator E-Book Debate

The American Spectator has offered a couple of different perspective on e-books this week.  On Wednesday, Lisa Fabrizio didn’t so much denounce electronic books as worry about what their growth might mean:

And so it was with trepidation that I read last week that announced that for the first time, sales of titles for its Kindle e-readers outpaced those of hardcover books. Now, I’m no luddite when it comes to the advance of technology, but I hope I’m not wrong in predicting that the surge in the sale of e-books is merely a fad and not a trend As we grow more and more into a technologically based society, we are losing touch with the sensible world around us. This push-button lifestyle brings us further and further away from simple pleasures; those that may be enjoyed even without electricity.

As did my father when I was a little girl, I encourage children to read: read anything that catches their fancy and if Kindles are the only means to this end, then fine. But my suggestion to the young is to pick up a real book, love it, and reread it until its pages are yellow and dog-eared and then pass it on to someone else. Then none of you will have cause to pause when someone asks you that popular question: If you had three books to take with you should you ever be stranded on a deserted island, what would they be?

Mark Goldblatt, author of Sloth, responds from the perspective of a reader and an author. He concludes it is not an either or situation:

As unsettling as such innovations may seem, they needn’t encroach on the experience of traditional readers — not even those seduced by the siren song of a Nook, Kindle or iPad. The option of sight reading, of scanning down the page line by line, without using the cursor, will always remain. But the range of new possibilities is sure to impact how writers write; many will write with an e-book specifically in mind. They will become orchestrators as well as wordsmiths — deciding, in the case of Sloth, what to annotate, but, in the future, deciding what to score, what to illustrate and what to animate. The results will be hybrids… not unlike the way today’s graphic novels are hybrids of traditional novels and comic books.

Not surprisingly, I am in the both/and camp. I love my Kindle and its conveinence.  But I also love books qua books. Just one example, my wife and I love to buy classic children’s books at used book stores and library sales because of both the classic stories and their great illustrations.  And lest all the authors out there are worried, yes we enjoy brand new children’s books for similar reasons.  This is something that can’t be replicated on a Kindle – at least right now.

I don’t know how the various markets will work themselves out but I am not afraid that art and illustration and the joys of books as physical objects will disappear.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

1 Comment

  1. As a writer with books both in paper and in ebooks, I think it’s win win. The ereaders will slowly eclipse paperbacks, but hardcover books, quality ones, will weather this new sea change. I think the days of small forests being leveled to print up the first run for the latest Megawriter’s thriller are nearing an end. I think that for this type of book, ‘signed’ hardbacks will probably sell well, but most of the sales will be of the bit/byte variety. But for reference books, histories, illustrated children’s books, hardback will continue to serve.

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