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My Blog

Hardcopy Books Versus Electronic Publishing

G’day!
 
 
I hope you’ve all been enjoying life and making the most of the warmer weather. It is as dry as a desert up here in Dimbulah with bush fires raging fiercely all around us. A big thank you goes out to all the courageous fire fighters out there that are doing their best to control the blazes. What a tremendous job they are doing!
 
 
A few crazy things have happened these past few weeks but there is one incident a few nights back that has certainly topped them all! It was 10pm and I was in a deep sleep when there was an almighty crash on our tin roof followed by the sound of something quite large stumbling about. My heart raced a million miles a minute as I wondered what in the hell could be making such a racket. It was way too noisy to be a possum.
 
 
My husband and I shot outside, suspense making us forget to breathe as we scoured the roof with the torchlight from the comforting safety of the ground. Then, we saw it! A black swan was peering cautiously back at us as hubby and I shook our heads in utter disbelief. What was a black swan doing in the middle of this countryside?! We carefully removed it from the roof; well hubby did as I was not that brave….this bird was enormous! The poor thing had hurt its legs and couldn’t stand up so we made it as comfortable as we could for the night and took it into our vet first thing the next morning. The swan has since made a full recovery which is fantastic news!  
 
 
I have a guest with us today, my cousin and freelance journalist Luke Madsen. He is passionate about writing and the preservation of the printed book and is here to express his thoughts on the issue. This is what he had to say…….
 
 
In a recent New York Times article, Geoff Dyer expressed his disdain for reading books that had shown “any sign of prior occupancy” – namely people’s penciled, or—heaven forbid—penned notes littered throughout a book.
 
 
While he did profess a fondness for books that showed age (albeit, that he had aged), it was this very admission that had me wondering why he chose not to address the timeliest topic in publishing: the advent of the eBook. I can only imagine the anguish that awaits someone who demands a book “be in near-mint condition when I start reading it,” when all the printing presses of the world may soon be museum fodder. Conversely, maybe nothing would please Geoff more than to read a book with no pages?
 
 
Indeed, bookstores are in decline, electronic publishing is in vogue, and as a twenty-something with 80 000 words of his memoir already written, I lament that by the time I’m actually in a position (knock on wood) to publish my memoir, or any book for that matter, books printed on paper may be a bygone relic.
 
And if all this wasn’t lamentable enough, thanks to electronic publishing, vanity publishing is becoming easier and more affordable than ever.
 
 
This month, Dymocks will launch D Publishing, a new web-publishing arm which will “enable authors to take control of the professional creation … without the need for previous experience or expertise in the area.” Hmm, okay. 
 
 
“All books published with D Publishing will be assigned an ISBN, barcode, and imprint, and will be registered as officially published works.” Really? And the pièce de résistance: “We do not need to be convinced that you are worth publishing. Are they serious??
 
 
Now, admittedly, I am alreadywriting my memoir, so I’ll gladly take any shots at my vanity; but being published becauseI wrote a good book would far better stroke my ego than publishing it myself. I want to earn publication, not do it for the simple gratification of being able to hold it in my hands and gush – but, of course, I won’t be holding my book in my hands at all; I’ll be holding a…device.
 
 
Similarly lamentable stories abound in the publishing industry. Amazon.com is already selling more eBooks than paperbacks and hardcovers, and is currently in talks with publishers about launching a media library service similar to Netflix for tablets and other digital books…Which begs a slew of questions.
 
 
What will become of libraries? What of the charm of being in a building surrounded by thousands upon thousands of delightfully smelling books? Where am I going to go when I seek a quiet place to do some distraction-free writing? Hell, where am I going to go when I’m in the city and in need of a reasonably clean bathroom?
 
 
Nevertheless, I can’t rightly lament electronic publishing without touching upon the obvious environmental arguments surrounding the issue. At a glance, books are made from paper, paper is made from trees, and deforestation is bad; but Kindles and other such devices run on batteries, the manufacturing of which is a high-carbon-footprint industry. So until thorough quantitative research is done on the matter, the jury is out on that one.
 
 
Environmental arguments aside, maybe – just maybe – I’m missing a greater good when stark positives can be found in the digitization of literature; to wit, not only are the classics of the past now rendered immortal, the breadth and ease of access to literature is greater than ever.
 
 
Still, I can’t escape one question and the telling answer it begets: if you bought a Kindle and a paperback novel today, which would smell better in twenty years’ time?
 
 
Thank you, Luke, for such a knowledgeable, witty and powerful opinion. I loved having you here with us and learning how passionate you are on this issue. I, for one, cannot resist the smell of a book and must admit I have shunned the idea of reading from a devise. I am proud of my growing bookshelf which is full to the brim of wonderful works from brilliant authors, and it is only going to get bigger!
 
 
Thought for this week
“A great theory on housework…if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be.”
 
 
Until next time, keep smiling and dreaming!
 
 
Mandy :)
 
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