I’ve been working at Barnes & Noble for well over a year now. I am my store’s Digital Sales Manager (even though B&N recently changed that title). So my insight into e-reader devices has grown exponentially over the last year. Here are several things that really worry me about digital books.
First, I’m not opposed to them but I do see some serious flaws in the whole idea. The reading devices themselves are only useful for a certain amount of time. Eventually, just like any other electronic device two things will inevitably happen: the device will eventually break down and become non-operable. Or, the device will become so technologically obsolete it will eventually be useless. The latter typically happens before the former (e.g. Nook first editions are no longer made and have become obsolete, and my Kindle second edition is now obsolete). The former is currently happening. Readers come into the store with their first edition devices, we cannot fix them so they have to trade up because their current device is no longer made. Let me remind you that physical copies of books never become “obsolete” in the same sense that digital readers do. Granted, a book may go out of print, but if you have it and take care of it, it will last until you die. Even then, if it’s taken care of, it will continue to live on.
Second, digital readers/books will eventually cause B&N to downsize their locations. In other words, I believe that digital books will force B&N to close at least 200 or more of their stores, and force the company to find smaller buildings for the remaining stores. The cost of keeping up with current technology is extremely expensive.
Third, eventually, and I’m not sure when, the book in the form as we have always known it will fade. Those who still want physical books will be forced to find them at second hand bookstores. This will cause independent bookstores to either turn to a used books market or go out of business. So, digital books/readers will cost a lot of people their jobs.
Fourth, once a reader’s device no longer works, their only option (unless they get an app on their PC or other device - which will also break down) is to buy another device. And this will go on and on and on. So, not only is the reader buying electronic reading devices (that are not too cheap I might add), they are buying the digital books as well. Buying the reading device itself is shelling out extra money that could otherwise be spent on books.
To me, the above sounds bleak. While I am not opposed to digital books, I simply love and prefer physical copies. What all this means for me is that from now on I will buy nothing but physical copies of books. Because, to be quite honest, sometime in the future I will not be able to do so from a new book vender.
Is there a plus side to reading digital books and using eReaders? Yes. First, you do save space in your home. Second, you can take thousands of books with you on the device when you travel. Third, the new release digital titles are less expensive than their printed editions. Other than these three things, I can not think of any other advantages. Can you?
Yesterday at work (remember I work now at a bookstore), a young teen, about sixteen, asked me for the bookLord of the Flies by William Goldin. As I was searching for it in our system he proceeded to tell me that he had read it once and did not like it. I told him I had read the book when I was about his age and said I actually enjoyed it.
Before he let me finish explaining why, he responded by telling me that he knew it was a good book because it had a deeper meaning. For the next few seconds he attempted to detail to me that deeper meaning. Unfortunately I had a customer come up and interrupt our conversation so I was not able to let him know one important point I wanted to make.
Regardless of whether the book had what he thought was a “deeper meaning”, and despite the fact that I enjoyed it but he did not, these factors do not necessarily make the story good. On one level—the literary or technique of writing level, the story is, in fact, a good story. But I understood what he meant, he did not prefer that story because his tastes where of a different ilk. I wanted to explain to him that that was actually okay, not to get discouraged as a reader. Keep trying to find works that you enjoy, there are millions of books out there and certainly of those he could find plenty of stories he’ll end up enjoying—some with “deeper meanings.”
The thing that struck me about him was that he had a pretty good grasp of what Golding had written in Lord of the Flies, and in my experience this is rare for sixteen year old boys. Most sixteen year old boys don’t give a rat’s ass about Golding, his stories, or whether they understand them or not. I was afraid he mistook my comment that I enjoyed Lord of the Flies as a message that because I enjoyed it, he must enjoy it too. That was certainly not my intent. I hope he continues to read.
Some people don’t have habits. “Which people are those?” you ask. None that I’m aware of, but it sounded like a good way to start this post. You know, start with pretentious poignancy.
I have the weirdest writing habits on the planet. Well, maybe not, but at least on my block, right? I used to be able to write nearly everyday. I had a job that afforded me free weekends, holidays off, two weeks at Christmas, spring break, and summers off. Jeez! What job was this, you ask? Teacher! But, since the State of Texas cut me (thank you so much for that), and I’ve worked in a bookstore since (this really is a joy), my writing time has been cut in half. No, wait. My writing time has been cut way more than half.
In fact, now my schedule is so erratic (we’re talking retail management here folks), it is difficult to find time to write. The transition has killed me. Okay, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but hell, you know what I mean. So, I’ve had to be pretty creative to get in some writing time. How do you do it? I’m glad you asked.
First, it’s too tough for me to write after an 8 hour shift of being on my feet helping older luddites learn how to use their newly purchased e-Reading devices. Patience is a virtue, I think. My mind is Jell-O, my legs ache, and my feet are usually on fire. This is reading time! No joke, after a long shift, I read. My mind can be Jell-O but I am able to focus on the words on a page. That’s not too taxing. Not as taxing as trying to work over my fatigue and pain and attempt to create.
So, on the days I’m off, I get up, get on the treadmill for at least 30 minutes, eat breakfast, rest a bit, then jump in front of my computer and go! Also, if I work a night shift, I get up, eat, and use the morning hours to write. Now, if I can do that, given that I work a 40 hour week on my feet, and still find time to write, what’s your excuse?
Second, believe me when I say it takes effort to use the little bit of time I have to actually park my ass in front of a blank screen and create. My brain, at first anyway, wants to do anything other than be creative. It wants to work on my blog, check my e-mail, listen to music, watch a movie, anything but create, anything but work. However, if I make myself work, usually after ten or so minutes, my mind begins to sync itself with my creative juices and the words begin to flow.
This really does take discipline. It takes drive. In reality, I sort of bribe myself to work. I set small goals to write at least 500 words and then I reward myself with a break to do as I please. Now, if I’m on roll and those 500 words turn into 750 words and I still feel the creative juices flowing and soon I’m pushing 1000 words, I keep on trucking until I can no longer squeeze any material out of my thick skull. At this point I’m in the zone, so staying in the zone is key. If you’ve ever written for any length of time you know when the zone arrives. Nothing can take me from the zone. That’s right, nothing! Of course I’m not in the zone right now so don’t expect too much from this post.
Third, and last, I always carry with me a pen and some paper (well, a Moleskine to be exact). Even when I’m at work. If something comes to mind, my pen and paper are moving at the speed of write (Ha! Get it? The speed of write? I know it’s corny). Carrying around pen and paper is crucial for any serious writer. I mean seriously, you never know when ideas will strike. I was in the Boy Scouts. I had to memorize the motto.
I also journal in my Moleskine. Of course this causes sparks in my mind which in turn can spark a fire under my ass to write. Journaling seems to be pretty important. Well, it is to me. It allows me to record thoughts, ideas, experiences, complaints, events, etc. I’ve used many a journal entry in my short stories and novels, so hey it works for me.
These are my habits; the good ones anyway. I’ll leave you to guess what my bad habits are, but try not to go overboard okay? These habits fit me, so if they don’t work for you the complaint department at my house is always closed. You’ve gotta get your own habits to be an effective writer, try and test a few (drinking can help as well). And, if you don’t have any writing habits then you fall under the “or Not!” part of my title. You can just go and have fun while the rest of us work for free (or chump change as the case may be). Cheers!