“Ebooks are the future.” — Dan Poynter, self publishing guru
Dan Poynter has been predicting that ebooks are the future for years. He has compared hanging onto the idea of paper-only publishing to still manufacturing buggy whips. It’s so yesterday. “Every paper book has to be an ebook,” one insider said at a meeting I attended on book promotion, “and to argue against it you are shooting yourself in the foot.” Another added: “Ebooks! That’s where the industry is going. You can’t stop it!” Harsh? Maybe. But probably true.
So last week, with all these warnings and predictions dancing around my head, I drove north from Los Angeles to Camarillo to attend what I’m sure will one day be regarded as just another relic of the past — the Ventura County Book & Author Fair, a delightful all-day event with speakers, panels, and authors at tables selling books and handing out chocolates. And, of course, exchanging publishing and self-publishing stories with humor and enthusiasm.
The minute I walked across the patio from the Senior Center and entered the exhibit hall, I felt a surge of relief. The book fair looked like every other book fair I’d ever been to and I liked it. Nothing had changed. Buggy whips galore! And what I was most struck with was how everybody loves to touch books. And so do I. I saw people picking up books, caressing books, flipping through books, rubbing the spines of books, smelling books, looking at the tables of contents, studying the front covers, reading the back covers. And even buying books.
A Book Fair Without Books?
Then a question popped into my head: If things are going all-digital, can you have a book and author fair with just ebooks? What will it look like? What will it feel like? Will it look like Brookstones or Comdex? I went around to different book display tables and asked authors how they felt about the idea of an all-ebook book fair. Most had the same response: “Oh, the horror.” The idea of a world without touchable books seems unthinkable. I asked myself, would I be willing to drive an hour to a book fair just to touch the latest hardware? Sniff a power cord? Scroll through words on a screen instead of flipping through a real book? And leave my fingerprints on somebody else’s ebook reader? Are we having fun yet?
After returning from the book fair I emailed a therapist colleague of mine in Bakersfield, Sue Speake, LMFT, who has almost finished writing her own book — and has her heart set on seeing it in print — the traditional way. When I asked her what she thought about an all-digital publishing world, she had the same reaction — resistance: “What about colleges or public libraries, bookshelves at home, book markets and peeking at the end of the book to see what happens? What about trading books with a friend? What about donating the book you’ve finished reading to the senior home or schools? We must have real books…WE must!”
Somehow I suspect that those of us who are book lovers and book touchers will manage to stash away a supply of books in a nook or cranny somewhere for that fatal day when you just can’t buy a real book anywhere. We can pull up a standing lamp, screw in an incandescent light bulb from our secret stash under the kitchen sink, pull an afghan over our knees and enjoy caressing our way through one of our favorite relics of the past, keeping our place with an actual paper bookmark, and we can take comfort in the fact that as long as we have our own little panic nook — at least total ebookgeddon isn’t today.