This year the hot topic among writers, readers, and publishers has been the future of print books. As E-readers proliferate and E-books outsell hardbacks many of us devoted bibliophiles fear for our paper-based books.
Initially I made a point of ignoring E-readers. As a semi-luddite I bypassed the digital age (with the exception of CD's) and am only recently, but still reluctantly, using some of the new technology. I came into possession of a Kindle after my sister gave me hers. She was a big booster of the device until she became disenchanted with her whole experience. I thought I would see what it was like to read on the thing but now I see what my sister meant. Aside from the chance to stockpile free and 99 cent books, read some E-zines, and acquire Kindle only books I hardly ever use the thing. In some ways, however, I must admit that it has proved it's value. For instance, Brett Battles, a writer I enjoy, lost his contract with his publisher and put his new book on Amazon. In another instance, a writer acquaintance, John Schmierer, got tired of wrestling with publishers and put his mystery novel, "Ocean Boulevard", on Amazon and is about to do the same with his new novel. So the E-reader is a must of one wants to read these stories. Even I realize that the E-reader is here to stay.
However, I have to say that using the E-reader for anything longer than a short story or article is something I find difficult and unsatisfactory. This brings me to the point of this piece and that is the sense of the "book" itself. To feel a book in ones hands and absorb the smell of paste and ink is a delicious and decidedly sensuous experience. Cracking a new book, ruffling the pages, checking the authors bio and picture are all wonderful parts of the book buying and owning dynamic. The delight of seeing ones books lined up in a book-case, stacked on desks, tables, and floors is a visual treat. To view my similarly-spined collection of Hard-case crime paperbacks with their yellow pistol logo is a constant pleasure. To be able to pick up my well worn Henry Miller favorites and turn to any page and read his unique prose is a joy that is hard to express.
E-readers may be a convenience and an inevitability but they have no soul. They are always the same; they never change. A book ages, it accumulates creases, tears, stains, and markings. It summons, over time, memories and emotions. E-readers have no visual resonance, no tactile warmth, no heart. What can match the pleasure of browsing in a bookstore: The colors, the variety, the discovery of a new author, a missed book in a series? I first found James Lee Burke solely due to the artwork on the cover of "Neon Rain". It attracted me in a way I would never have experienced on a black and white Kindle.
For those of you who want a future for real books it is important to keep buying them. Our hope lies in the independent specialty bookstores like the Poisoned Pen. This where the strength of books lie. The business
model of the big-box store has proven a failure but the independents offer personality and people who love books. These small bookstore employees know their clients and what they like and are always ready with whats new and with recommendations. These bookstores are a shelter from the awful noise of modern life and a refuge for book lovers.
What do you think about this issue? The Poisoned Pen blog is for all of us. Please send your comments or send an E-mail to Will Hanisko, our blog guru, at WILL@POISONEDPEN.COM. Or if you are a true Luddite, call or write the store.
VIVA LOS LIBROS, LONG LIVE BOOKS.
- Steve Shadow Schwartz
Here are some covers that might jump out at you, were you browsing through The Poisoned Pen:
Gran, Sara. Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead (Houghton $24 June 7). The heir to French detective Jacque Silette’s signature style of solving mysteries, Claire DeWitt finds herself in post-Katrina New Orleans on a missing persons case. The narrative winds back and forth in time and in and out of lives, weaving a seductive spell peppered with observations on detecting that are spot on. While a revelation about the missing
uncle lacks originality, the rest is effortlessly so and the use of language, time, and place are to be relished along with the literary tropes. “Terrific. I love this book! Absolutely love it. This is the first fresh literary voice I’ve heard in years.”—Sue Grafton
Mercer, Ken. East on Sunset (St Martins $26 June 5). “Former narcotics detective Will McGowan, who was fired from the LAPD for substance abuse, has a lot to be happy about in Mercer’s stellar follow-up to Slow Fire, a 2010 FMC Pick. Besides getting back together with his wife, Laurie, and having a baby on the way, baseball fan Will has a new job as a security guard for the L.A. Dodgers. Meanwhile, Erik Crandall, who was
put behind bars five years earlier after a drug bust, is now free and seeking payback—from Will. Sure that Will pilfered the drug stash from the bust, Crandall begins harassing Will for his cut, all ,000 of it. Will knows nothing of the stolen drugs, but to get the steroid-fueled thug off his back, he needs to revisit his difficult
past. Mercer masterfully ratchets up the suspense as the flawed, fully human Will strives to clear his name and protect his family at any cost.”—P
Makkai, Rebecca. The Borrower (Viking $28 Signed). The June Indie Next Pick: “A 26-year-old children’s librarian, Lucy Hull, allows herself to be ‘kidnapped’ by one of her precocious 10-year-old patrons, a boy intent on running away from home. The pair end up on a hilarious road trip that ping-pongs them across the Midwest and out to the East Coast. Makkai’s writing is sharp and funny, and book lovers will enjoy the many references to well-known titles, from echoes of the road trip in Lolita to a chapter that is structured like a Choose Your Own Adventure story. What a wonderful, assured, and original debut!” See First Novels. Our June Modern Firsts Pick
Block, Lawrence. A Drop of the Hard Stuff (Mulholland $26 Signed). Patrick reviews: “After a lengthy absence, Block is back in this powerful and nostalgic trip into the past. An aging Scudder is enjoying a late night talk with his old friend, Mick Ballou and he begins to tell a story about a man he once knew. Newly sober and clinging to his twelve-step lifeline, Scudder bumps into a childhood friend at an AA meeting. In Jack Ellery, a career criminal, Scudder sees the route that he himself might have followed had he not become a detective. Ellery also recognizes the solid citizen he might have become. The leveling mechanism of alcoholism has brought them together. Then, while trying to make his amends to the many people he’d wronged, Ellery ends up murdered. Scudder takes the case, which may end up jeopardizing his own sobriety...”