Dead tree editions brought back to life

Dead trees--ancestor of the thumb drive. Photo: Joseph Voves, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Dead trees–ancestor of the thumb drive. Photo: Joseph Voves, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

For a decade or more bibliophiles have been swooning over the deleterious effects e-readers will have upon the publishing industry, basic education, general literacy and the foundations of western civilization. Electronic book enthusiasts on the other hand have been chortling over the demise of “dead tree” publishers and singing hosannas to a brave new world in which we might wander the pristine forests of Endor while the wisdom of the ages is projected wirelessly directly onto our retinas.

I subscribe to neither pole of the argument, being what would be called a switch-hitter were the reading of murder mysteries to be numbered among the team sports. I do love me my devices, but I also love to curl up with a book that I know will never beep at me, or go blank until I plug it back into the wall. I’ve also been known to throw a book across the room and to pace back and forth shouting at the author. Sorry about your iPhone, dear. Forgot what I was reading on.

Based on my experience this week doing both kinds of reading, I do have some suggestions for conventional book publishers to improve the competitiveness of their products.

It’s common wisdom that attention spans are becoming shorter. Perhaps some kind of diversion, like a crossword puzzle or a picture of a cute cat, could be inserted into the text every few chapters.

And single-purpose devices are a little passé. I suggest two pockets on the inside back covers, one to hold all the mail the postman delivers during the time you are reading the book, and one for stationery and stamps, in case you feel moved to reply.

People also like having the option to go a little deeper into topics that catch their interest. So if the author’s skullduggerous villain has just dispatched the nanny with a garden implement, a little break in the text to enumerate the 10 most famous murders by pruning hook might be in order. Those wanting information on murder by shovel may instead be referred to the index.

No reason to go overboard, though. It would be a step too far to build a telephone into a printed book. If I wanted to talk with anyone, I wouldn’t have my nose in a book in the first place.

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4 Responses to “Dead tree editions brought back to life”

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  1. Not Dead Yet! says:

    The publishing industry was at one point convinced that paperbacks would never work in America, and were an affront to real reading, which of course took place in hardcovers.

    When I was in high school, minimum wage was a little over $3.00 an hour and a CD cost $12-$15. It would take half a day’s pay for me to buy one CD, that I would then learn only had one good song on it.

    While things like Amazon discouraging people from buying books from the Hatchette Book Group, or the auto-deletion of everybody’s copy of 1984 from their Kindle, are definitely concerning, digital distribution has been a godsend to the arts.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    There are two problems with printed books. both soft cover and hard cover, both of which I happen to like.
    Cost is the number one problem. The second problem is weight.
    If you own a lot of books like I do, you quickly realize how much they weigh when you move.
    Coming up to the Adirondacks or anyplace else and it’s much easier to lug along your Kindle than it is to bring more than a couple of books.
    If you buy books online as many do, you instantly can start reading the ebook while you have to wait a week to have the printed version shipped.
    If you pay for faster shipping, the cost of the printed book goes way up.
    You say you don’t like reading digital? That is exactly what you are doing right now.
    Yes, printed books are nice. I love them so much that I have several sitting on one of my many bookshelves that I have never read. They look nice sitting there.

  3. I tire of this false dichotomy between printed and e-books. The latter isn’t magical and the former isn’t sacred. Each has pros and cons. I read both physical and e-books.

    Far more important, as NDY pointed out, is to avoid using Amazon for either, given how they bully the marketplace. When I buy physical books, it’s at an independent bookseller. When I buy e-books, it’s on Kobo… but via a link from an independent bookseller’s website (so they get a cut).

  4. Lorraine O. says:

    Thanks Dale! This is very funny. Made me laugh out loud a number of times. I often shout at the radio or TV, but have never thrown a book….I love picturing that image.