Today Amazon announced that, for the first time in history, they’re selling more e-books than printed books. Up until a few months ago, this headline would have caused me to gasp in horror.
Throughout my life, I’ve been a bit of a purist when it comes to books. I studied English Literature in university not to be a teacher, or a writer, or a journalist, but because I wanted to spend four years pursuing my ongoing love affair with books. This lifelong love affair was as much about the physical experience of reading as it was about consuming a story. As a child, I’d retreat into a dark closet with a book and a flashlight to read “in secret”—not because I wasn’t allowed to read (far from it!), but because it was so much more romantic to do so. Equally sensual was perusing used bookstores in search of hard-to-find titles (like the Poldark series by Winston Graham, back in the days before eBay and Amazon) and inhaling that addictive scent bouquet of dust, leather, and mildew.
But as I age, I find less time in my schedule to maneuver around stacks of old tomes in used bookstores, or settle into the bottom of a closet with a book and a flashlight. What remains important to me are the stories contained in the books themselves, and not so much the feeling of holding a physical book in my hands. This new personal reality became crystal clear to me a couple months ago, when I was gifted with a Kobo (Chapters’ version of the Kindle). My first reaction was to recoil.
“But what of books!?” I cried out into the universe.
“But what of reading?” The universe cackled knowingly in reply.
Today, I carry hundreds of e-books on my Kobo, and I find myself reading more because my library is always within reach. As a writer (especially of science fiction, where we attempt to dream beyond the existing realms of technology) who wants her work to be read by the world—and really, that’s all I want—is it not better to understand the technology, embrace it, and be grateful that it connects readers with my work, than clamp my eyes and ears shut and pretend that e-books don’t exist?
With regards to Amazon’s sales—well, I am energized by this development. People are reading! They hear about a book, they pick up their tablet or Kindle or smart phone, and they buy it! In what universe is that a bad thing?
A part of me will always hoard books, love the smell of paper, and appreciate the artistry that goes into crafting a beautiful literary tome. But we live in the future of our ancestors, and I like to think they would be astonished and thrilled at how easy it is for us to immerse ourselves in the written word (whether in a book or on a Kobo).
PS. My forthcoming novel, The Healer, will be available in both hard copy and e-book editions. Just saying.