New Year Treats

If asked for phrases which describe the majority of book editors,’technologically enlightened’ and ’embracers of change’ wouldn’t spring to the mind of most. It’s harsh criticism and a notion I think is scattered about too breezily. Book editors need to be calm, organised, consistent, focussed people—and if that leads to a group personality which sometimes seems a mite studious and traditional, then so be it; would you really want to read books edited by a haphazard flibbertigibbet without a sense of language and form?

Peoplekind in general aren’t fans of disruptions to their regular programming; there are photographers who feel that the soul of their art is in film, mechanics who want to hear only a V8 engine, chefs who wish molecular gastronomy had never raised its foamy head. The people involved in the making of creative products are often not in as much of a rush for advancement of ‘the technology’ as the consumers who want to feast on it. But they get there, and usually after a great deal more consideration than those who just want to fork over some cash and sync up.

I am not innocent of stone throwing; I have complained of editorial counterparts being dull and stuck in their ways, and I believe that the book industry as a whole has taken some time to come around to the notion of digital publishing. But the thing which is not enough expressed is how excited many book-people are about the future of publishing and book-making; whatever that future may involve. For proof one only needs to potter about my company’s headquarters and take note of those who asked for an e-reader for Christmas, are borrowing one of the company’s devices to trial it, are organising concurrent publishing of a p-book and its e-book, who let out a little squeal when a box containing an ordered reading-gadget lands on their desk. My boss is one of that rare breed who doesn’t own a mobile phone, but she bought herself a Kindle for Christmas and she loves it, loves it, loves it. So take note: editors may be bespectacled, cardigan-wearing, pencil-wielding wordsmiths who are attached to making things out of paper, but that doesn’t mean we don’t dig new stuff as well.

With travel on my mind, this little editor and book-blogger ordered a Kindle today. And I’m darn excited. Mind you, I buy/borrow/beg so many paper books, imagine what I’m going to be like when I can simply download the e-books I’d really like to read… One day… When I have time. I can see it now: a pile of p-books that actually sit in piles, and a pile of e-books cascading on the screen of a virtual library. It will definitely be a convenience when globe-wandering,  though I don’t know which way I’ll end up leaning. I still prefer to own a CD than download mp3s, and I imagine that I’ll prefer to own an actual book than a e-file—but preference is one thing, what you end up using every day is another.

I await the yet to be invented e-reader which displays on a rear screen a copy of the cover of the book you are reading—to help book-loving souls sate their curiosity of what others are reading, to facilitate conversations between book-nerds, to show off on the train. Yet a positive of existent e-readers I had not considered was recently discussed in the New York Times (with thanks to the colleague who alerted me to this): Sometimes you don’t want others to know what you’re reading. Whether it’s a trashy romance, the biography of a conservative politician you claim not to vote for, an airport novel by an author you have previously derided in public, the e-reader allows you to enjoy these biblio-indulgences in hypocritical and lowbrow privacy. Not that I think you should be ashamed of what you choose to spend your personal reading-time doing, but just in case you do anyway. Last year a friend of mine wrapped in paper the cover of the Robert Pattinson biography she was reading, so that she could eat lunch at a cafe free of embarrassment. An e-reader would have saved her the trouble and associated angst. Though I would not have found it as amusing.

The way we publish, purchase and read books is changing. And I suppose I’ve just joined the revolution. Or at least suggested I may join the revolution if I like it well enough. (Leaders of revolutions are ok with this lack of decision-making, right?) I suppose, though, when I download my first potentially-embarrassing title in the privacy of my wifi and read it by the light of my electronic ink, there will be no anonymity of e-reading for me, for surely I will post about it here for all to giggle at. Or will I…?


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