Once upon a time, in a land far, far away….bookstores and little paper books roamed the Earth. Oh, wait…that was just last year.
On Monday I went with my friend Linda to the seminar “The Future of Publishing”, hosted by Independent Writers of Southern California. There was a panel of folks ranging from booksellers to agents to self-publishing companies and internet silicon valley techies selling “vooks” (interactive online books which contain videos). Although the speakers represented different ends of the spectrum, one thing they all agreed on was the inevitable death of bookstores, and I practically had to breathe into a paper bag.
No, I’m not a fan. I do not own one, and I do not want one. Don’t even try to convince me how great it is and how much you love yours.
Publishing has been a pretty consistent industry for several hundred years, but since the introduction of the Kindle…it’s changed faster that anyone could have anticipated. Even the huge conglomerates can’t keep up. Borders bookstores, as of yesterday, stopped paying rent on their stores. Mom and Pop bookstores are falling like dominoes.
This is giving me great anxiety. When I was in college and used to have panic attacks, the only thing that calmed me was to sit in the aisle of the campus bookstore. Opening a book, the smell of fresh print, the feel of the cool crisp pages against my fingers soothed me. Being surrounded by all my favorite books on the shelves in my home calms me and gives me a good feeling. How could a Kindle make me feel that way?
My husband will tell you that when I’m stressed or blue, I don’t shop for shoes, I get myself lost in a bookstore for a few hours. It’s like swimming in a sea of brilliance, ideas, theories, imagination. I peruse, gather a huge stack of books that call to me, plop myself down on the floor in a quiet aisle and plunge in. When I am filled with inspiration and curiosity, I make my final choices and purchase my books, which I will read, and re-read and keep forever. I love my books!
There’s nothing better than walking into someone’s home and seeing a room full of books. I can’t help myself from reading all the spines (a person’s library tells a lot about them). And what about all the happy times spent with my children at the library, sitting in a comfy chair, reading stories together. What could ever replace that?
What will the future hold? Will libraries even exist? Will they just be a cold empty room filled with computers?
Are paper books going the way of the vinyl record? Will it one day be a hipster, kitschy thing to have paper books, like it is now to own vinyl albums and a turntable?
I’ll never own a Kindle. I don’t want to worry about getting sand in it when I’m lazing on the beach, or having it run out of battery at the most page-turning moment. Recently my friend Amy went to Mexico with her Kindle all loaded up, only to have it break down on the first day of vacation, leaving her nothing to read all week but catalogs. No thank you! I don’t want to read Catcher In The Rye on a Kindle! I want my faded copy from the 1960s with it’s dog-eared yellow pages, it’s cover well-worn from being toted around and loaned out to friends.
So here I am, having just written my first book, and the publishing world around me is in disarray. (Good timing Holls!) There are those telling me just to self-publish in digital form. That’s the future, that’s where the money is, they say. I can’t do this. I want my book to be real, to be loved, to be well worn, to have dog-eared pages and highlighted passages, to be passed around from friend to friend. If it isn’t then I’d rather not publish it at all.
I want my dinosaur bookstores back.