Web Editor Ian David Philpot addresses the topic of eBooks from the perspective of an undergraduate student looking to become an author immediately after graduation in eight weeks.
I have two bookshelves from IKEA that take up a lot of space in my room. They are wonderful and everything I had ever wanted from a book-holding structure, but they are also very full.
My girlfriend, who bought me the first of the two bookshelves, recently asked me if I wanted a Kindle for graduation. My immediate response was "No." I mean, how could I stand to ever read a novel from anything but an actual book? As an aspiring author, the thought of eBooks is nauseating. When I get a hold of a published copy of my first novel, I want to feel the pages, not the pixels. I want to breathe in the stories just by smelling the physical object in my hand. (Have you ever tried to sniff your computer screen? I tried it once. Apparently there was some static build up on the screen. I got zapped.)
I'm also aware of the large stigma attached to "online-only" publications. Don't get me wrong, there are some I follow very closely because I know who the editors are, but a majority of the literary community is concerned about the quality being produced by online-only journals. (And if someone happens to read a story they don't like from one online-only publisher, they may forever be turned off to the idea, whereas that person isn't likely to give up physical books.)
It's Not Easy Being Green
Parts of me wants to have an eBook reader: the tech savvy part, the part of me that always travels light, and the environmentally conscious part. That last part is where my biggest struggle exists.
I want to do everything I can to help out with the environment. I turn off the faucet when I brush my teeth. I take home plastic bottles from work--my day job doesn't have a recycling program in place. These are little things, I know, but I like to think they're helping out. So what if I didn't have to buy any more physical books at all? (Textbooks especially.) Then I started the process of justifying timber sacrifice for my personal needs.
NPR and CPR or: eBook Bound
Then NPR posted a link on Facebook to Lynn Neary's article "No Ink, No Paper: What's the Value of an eBook?" I was scared when I started reading. What if I finally write something good and it's never actually printed on paper? What if Richard Stallman gets a hold of it and starts distributing it for free? What if my book never makes any money? I dropped my laptop and ran to find a paper bag to stop from hyperventilating.
When I regained consciousness... Okay, so maybe I didn't really pass out, but I did freak out. What right did NPR have of presenting me with the harshness of reality? I was so upset, I went back to the article to read the rest. And a peace came over me when Neary quoted Chris Dannen, a freelance writer:
"If you have iTunes selling your books, you have this entire store right on everyone's desktop and you can expose them to a lot more," Dannen says. "You can just get them into the habit of buying books, and more importantly, you make the whole process of buying completely frictionless."
iTunes--where I spend over $100 a year buying music--could be selling my book to anyone near a computer? How could I not like that idea?
So Erin, if you're reading this, I'll have the Kindle with a side of eBooks, please.
NOTE: Relief will not be abandoning the printed form anytime in the foreseeable future. Our eBooks are available on Scribd.
Ian David Philpot is studying English at Northern Illinois University and spent one year in Columbia College Chicago’s Fiction Writing program. He writes fiction, poetry, and music. Ian prefers black to white, vanilla to chocolate, and only eats yellow cake.