Thursday, January 28, 2010

Maybe I am the last cuckoo on the branch

My books have been moved from one apartment to another, over and over again—always backbreaking work—and each time the idea of scaling them down comes to me like a bad memory in the night. And I never do it.

Reading about the great book purge of 2010, I felt somewhat sympathetic. Still, it didn’t make me want to lessen the load. Now (this is big) I might get rid of the duplicates, and there are duplicates, mostly due to working for the Aspidistra and combing resale shops with The Man Himself. I cannot pass up a 25 cent copy of Moby Dick. Who could? But even if I trim the leaves of the library the number of texts will still challenge the space in my apartment. And you know what: I’m cool with that. (Thank you, niña for being similarly cool.)

But look at this. Chad Post, of Three Percent/Open Letter fame, examines the new device from Apple, the unfortunately named iPad, which, among other, not at all revolutionary apps, introduces iBooks, the latest stab at getting this ebook think going. The Kindle doesn’t really excite me (big shock), and I’m guessing a good amount of folks feel the same way. Yeah, I’ve seen people reading off of a Kindle on the train, and even one of the lawyers I work with has one, but, all things (lightly) considered, I don’t see ebooks ever really destroying bound paper the way MP3s decimated the music industry. Part of the problem, which Post talks about, is that the publishers, and the tech brigade, are approaching this backwards, trying to create a demand, whereas in the music situation there already was one. And publishing is in trouble. As Post writes, quite well:

“When you need a third party’s device—a device in which the function most pertinent to you is like the third or fourth coolest thing about said device—when you need that device, that magical device to save you from yourself, you are fucked.”

People were trading mix tapes before they were sharing music files. Everyone jumped on Napster. No one seems as anxious to pay good money for a PDF file on an ugly device. Include me in that group.

Maybe I’m the crazy one with my shelves of books taking up space—books that could be digitized and stored in an electronic device that looks slick and advertises my hipness. Hell, I made the move from PC to Mac a few years ago and have not looked back. I’m down with the whole Mac scene, sort of (still no iPod or iPhone). Eh, who knows? Steve Jobs is apparently pretty intuitive about these things and he has enough sheep following him to make something like this fly. Regardless, I’ll keep the library big, strong and made of paper. Someone has to store what will someday be obsolete material until the whole great endeavor called humanity comes crashing to a halt and the seas rise and swallow us whole.

Sleep tight.