Saturday, 9 June 2012

The big debate: Print verses electronic?

To print, or not to print, that is the question—and it’s a question that has been asked of us at Bottom Drawer Publications: “Why are you only publishing eBooks?”

People have a hard time grasping the concept of an eBook only reading environment—not that I believe we will ever be devoid of books—and that is because readers love books. Readers like the tangible aspects of holding a book in their hands, the reverence that is felt when turning well-worn pages over and over.

Believe me, I understand that. I don’t just love books; I have a passion for them. Books and reading have been a part of my life since my earliest memories, probably since before I can remember, and until recently it was always with paper pages in my hands.

I love the smell of books. I love the covers, some designed with utter simplicity and others with amazing complexity. My bookshelves are overflowing with well-loved tomes, and I have boxes of “less-loved” ones hording up my garage, much to my husband’s chagrin. Recently, I even took on the very difficult task of choosing which books from my children’s extensive collections to “donate” to charity. Now, that was hard. I wanted to box up nearly every single one, but not to give to goodwill. I wanted to put them away for my kids to enjoy when they are adults, maybe even in the hope that they will share them with their own children.
This never-ending collection of books is part of where the problem lays. Where do we keep all of these books?
I am not blessed to own a huge purpose-built library, and even if I did have one, many of the books in my collection would not be ones I would chose to display. Why? Because even though I may have enjoyed them when I read them, they are not what I would go back and reread. They are disposable reads. Yes, I realize the irony in me struggling to give them away. But the fact is that they build up and up.

Are e-Readers the solution?

They certainly are to me—to a point. I was never very taken with reading on my desktop computer. I like to relax when I read, and sitting in a chair at a desk, scrolling through a PDF file isn’t my idea of enjoyable. It makes it seem too much like “work.” So when that was my only option, I will admit I didn’t read many eBooks. A laptop didn’t improve the situation either for me—still far too bulky and hot. Better, but still not my preferred choice.

Then came my savior in the form of a small music device called an iTouch. Of course I loved it for music, but apart from pretty pictures and being able to swipe my finger across the screen, which at the time it was very novel and a lot of fun, initially it didn’t offer me any more than my previous iPod had. That was until I worked out how to really “use it,” that the Wi-Fi worked and I was actually able to access the Internet from it. Reading on a mobile device became my drug of choice. I could download a few books and read whatever, wherever, and whenever I wanted.

This of course progressed though to my ownership of a smartphone. I didn’t even require Wi-Fi anymore; I had Internet access courtesy of my telephone provider. I truly could “read” anywhere. I had instant access to almost any book I wanted at any time of the day or night. I do love these devices, with all their “apps”—the Kindle app, the iBook app, the OverDrive app, et cetera, et cetera. I’m not limited to any one format; I am totally free. And now that I am the proud owner of a brand new, shiny white iPad—sigh—honestly, I am in reading heaven. I have spent more money purchasing books to read on it recently than I ever would have done if I was buying paper books from a bookshop, and I have read more than I would have if I’d made my way to the public library to borrow them—which I did with incredible regularity before, dozens at a time in fact. I don’t think the sweet lady behind the desk would even recognize me anymore. Without my eReader it would never have been possible to finish Mary Calmes’ Matter of Time Vol 1, which I did just the other day and I loved it, and immediately download its sequel so that I could follow Jory and Sam’s journey and not miss a beat.

Which in a round about way brings me back to this: “Why is Bottom Drawer Publications only publishing eBooks?”  I may certainly be enamored with the technology of eReaders and eBooks, but shouldn’t readers have the option of being able to buy a hard copy of any book they love? And shouldn’t authors have the option to publish their manuscripts and be able to hold the fruits of all their hard work in their hands? Possibly—but our decision stems from more than that.

The simple fact is that publishing, and sales of electronic books (eBooks), is experiencing growth at a phenomenal rate; sales of electronic devices for reading these electronic books have skyrocketed. People are flocking to buy eBooks for many reasons: convenience, price, immediate gratification; they are green and space saving; they also give a sense of anonymity so that we can read every type of story, regardless of whether or not it would be appropriate to be seen doing so.

As I’ve said before, I don’t believe we ever lose the brilliance of words printed in a book, nor would I want that to happen. I will continue to make sure I add new favorites to my “real” library—favorites that I hope will be dusty on my shelves in twenty years and that I will treasure and turn the pages of with regularity. But it won’t be my only library. If I’m clever and keep my electronic one secure by backing it up and keeping the files safe, I hope that in the future those books will also be there for me, with the added bonus that I may be able to pull them from my handbag for whenever I want to revisit them.

And as an endnote, Bottom Drawer Publications has not ruled out publishing to print. Even though our attention will be directed towards the eBook-only market for now, we do reserve the right to consider printing on demand for any book if demand dictates it.

What’s your reading preference?

Bottom Drawer Publications 
June 2012