Books After Amazon

Books after Amazon

I must confess that I am uncertain about Amazon's business practices.  I have to say that from a consumer point of view--speaking strictly cash, it does appear that they are trying to do their best for me--but in doing that are they crushing the book market?  I can't say.

But then I go on to the other part of this--to say something I've long wanted to say but couldn't devote a post by itself to.  I love books.  I love the physicality of books.  I have more than 20,000 of them.  And so, I've reached a limit--because what I really love about books is not the paper, binding, and feel, but the words--the real essence of the book--what is written on it.  And I've discovered that with various e-readers on my iPad, so long as I still have the ability to make marginal notes, to highlight, and to fool with and interact with the text, I am sanguine about its electronic format.  The last thing I really need to do is accumulate more shaped wood-pulp in my already overstocked house.  However, I could never, never do without the words, without the thoughts, without the essence of the book.

For me, a book does not subsist entirely in its physical presence.  Indeed, more and more, I find that it is far easier to tote around a kindle, or even the substantially heavier ipad than it is to carry the number of books that I want to browse through in a day.  Going on any of my numerous business trips, it is comforting to be able to tote with me five or six thousand of my best friends.  And it is fascinating how convenient they are.  For example, back before I had constant internet access, I was able to find the mangled quotations brought forth by various important people at meetings, conferences, etc.  and show everyone what was really said.  (A case in point came from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.")

So, that said, I'm thankful to Amazon for pushing the e-book up over the hump--many had started and tried, but Amazon accomplished the feat.  Now, I will admit to being one of Amazon's very poorest customers.  I gratefully accept and embrace their technology, but I go to Gutenberg and other sites on the web and produce legions of my own e-books.  I have the complete writings of H. Rider Haggard, a huge slug of Thorne Smith, and many other delights too infrequently printed to have made much of an impression on the reading world.  It is one of the reasons I rankle at the idiotic copyright laws that presently lock up literature for more than an entire lifetime, making OOP works permanently out of print, and depriving artists of the derivative possibilities that fuel literature.  I think how much poorer the world would be with Shamela to accompany Pamela--an eventuality made all the more likely by our present entrenched "protection" of creative works.  But as I pointed out, the real loss are interesting works by great to middle-list writers. Try getting copies of much of John O'Hara's opus or even the works of James Gould Cozzens--particularly something like Castaway, or John Cowper Powys.  Yes, we're protecting the works out of existence.  But if it is freely available, then you can have it in any electronic form to read--more of Sir Walter Scott than you can (or would want to) shake a stick at.

Enough--you get the point.  But do read the above referenced article for interesting thoughts about how Amazon has changed the book world.

An excerpt:

from "Books After Amazon"
Onnesha Roychoudhuri

In July Bezos told the press: “Amazon.com customers now purchase more Kindle books than hardcover books—astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months.” The company refuses to release exact figures, so there’s nothing to back this claim, but with Amazon cutting the price of the Kindle in order to remain competitive with Apple’s iPad, there can be little doubt that Kindle sales—and e-book sales—are up. Though that part about being astonished probably isn’t true. Amazon’s quest is market control, and it goes to great lengths to ensure it.

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