Brick and Mortar versus the Electronic Age
I wandered into a used bookstore one evening. The atmosphere, sights, and smells were everything you’d expect—glorious. The owner obviously loved his books and had an impressive inventory. He mentioned that he had over 1,000 more books in the back waiting to be shelved. I shook his hand and handed him a few of my bookmarks. While digging in my purse to find a business card, I had meant to say, “My picture book series about rescue animals are eBooks now, but I will have print books sometime this year. Do you host events for authors?”
I never got past the word “eBooks” because he interrupted me with an emotional rant. “I can’t do anything with an eBook. How do I put an eBook in my store? Don’t you love books? I love books. My customers love books. They want something they can hold them in their hands…” and on it went.
My reply was less than professional because I didn’t really think it through. I said, “I want my bookmarks back,” and then I grabbed them and he held tighter and we had a little tug-o-war with a few people staring, wide eyed and aghast. He said, “They’re mine. I’m not giving them back.” It all ended with a few laughs, hugs because this is Texas after all, and then he showed me the Texana section.
Honestly, I am a professional book hoarder. We added a wall of shelves when we moved specifically to hold my dad’s Time Life Series collection. My uncle tells me that he’s leaving me his book collection someday, and I will gladly make space. My heart flutters with joy when I see a pile of used books; stained pages and tattered covers just waiting to be rediscovered. I will never stop buying print books.
Unfortunately, not all the world is as devoted as the bookstore owner and I. The revelation struck me about five years ago. My part-time office help was complaining about her mother who kept insisting she read a Nicholas Spark book. This straight A student confronted mountains of text books and she didn’t want anything else added to her reading list. So her mother said, “Take my eReader. You’ll really love this story.”
My office helper did in fact love the story, and got an eReader of her own. She became a voracious reader, consuming three to four literary novels a week. We had wonderful talks about authors and their stories. There was me lugging my precious book club hardbacks around, stacking them on the floor around my house and office. There was her on the other hand, with her snazzy eReader in a decorative cover, slipping it in a backpack and taking hundreds of books with her wherever she went.
My teenagers have learned to love books because they’re surrounded at home, but their friends tell me they “don’t like books”. Those same kids are ‘reading’ and sharing tons of memes, blogs, poems, clever bits of prose. As writers, we understand words are words, and that someone wrote those words no matter the form. Perhaps a new generation is discovering the joys of reading but on their own terms.
The Future is Now
Way back in 2010, as an Indi Author, I lugged cases of books to events, visited bookstores, and mailed flyers to school librarians trying to get my name out there. In 2016 I launched a new photo-illustrated picture book series about rescue animals, only to have a lot of mom’s tell me, “We want a print version, too.” With limited funds, I’m learning a new software program so that I can duplicate the stories in a format that will be acceptable. Then there’s the money I’ll need to print a high-quality colored book, which I will worry about later. For now, I just want to learn the software.
Apparently, people still love holding picture books, but families are more mobile, too. They live in efficiency apartments or neat homes where they don’t want the clutter of books. The business of books and publishing is topsy-turvy, frustrating, ulcer inducing, and the worst migraine headache you can imagine. The good news about being a writer today is that there is a world out there needing original, quality content.
A World Full of Readers
I truly believe that more people are ‘reading’ now than ever before. Their focus is on a screen.
My eReader is bursting and yet I’ll probably buy two more .99 cent special promotion books before the day is done. I will do everything I can to support brick and mortar stores, too. I will tirelessly volunteer and attend events at libraries because there is no better place to introduce kids to the joys of reading. I will promote other authors and their books. But, I’m not giving up my electronic reader. There is no going back.
The only way is forward.