Wednesday, May 13, 2009

eBooks: A return to the Dark Ages

What? How can that be a true statement? eBooks are digital. They are SoOooOOoooOo StarTrek.

The technology to pdf a file has been around for decades. Because the Kindle I and II and to infinity, Sony Reader, and tons of lesser known digital readers (and the 'widgets' to make your cell phone a book reader) are new, doesn't mean book readers are new. There have been text-to-speech (and speech-to-text) software around for a long time for visually impaired persons. (Kindle II can 'read' aloud, but some publishers disable that feature for their books.)

There are arguments (and fears) the eBook will replace printed books (yet we are thrilled with an archeological find of a Sanskrit tablet - not a worry). There are the green arguments of saving trees, a renewable resource (the chemicals and waste products of printing are much more the worry). There is the gray area of pulping books. Certainly that is better than burning them. It is recycling in a sense. The bigger mantle of pulping is it is a tribute to someone who made a bad business decision (maybe we should toss them some stimulus money for their creative greed). Printed books (fiction) can have a bookstore shelf life of only six weeks. Digital books will be around long after we are bored with them.

Why do you think the six largest publishers in New York City were not the first to go digital with their books en masse? It wasn't fear of losing printed books and it wasn't lack of funds or digital readers. Rupert Murdoch may annoy some, but he is not a fool. These publishers learned from the pirating of digital music and digital movies. Pirating books is big business in some counties - a business ignored by their governments (I have two theories for that - never mind).

I'm not in a rush to digitalize my books into eBooks. I'm not afraid of technology. I had a digital business card a few years ago and NO ONE knew what to do with it, so don't call me old school - I'm way ahead of most people.

Here is why I think eBooks are (currently) a return to the Dark Ages. Think for a moment about the skill of reading in the Dark Ages. Do you think Irish peasants were huddled around the night fire reading after a long day of tilling the rocky fields for the landowner? Where does illiteracy stand in the world today? What about today's poor?

eBooks are elitist. I don't mind that the wealthy have tons of things that I do not. But I do not have Alan Greenspan's belief in the Reaganomic trickle-down theory (crumbs are not a meal). I have yet to hear of one person donating lots of NEW computers or eBook readers (both with eBooks) to homeless shelters, much less hand one to someone who lives on the street because there are NOT enough beds in all the shelters combined to house all the people without a bed tonight.

For those who wish to replace print books with digital books it is a warp-drive reversion to the Dark Ages where only the rich could read and only the rich had access to books. It is a reversal of what Johannes Gutenberg gave civilization in 1440. Civilized society extends further than individual wealth.

Will I ever convert my books to a digital format? Yes. There is already something in the works on that. But it is not elitist. While I am a writer, and make no mistake about that, I am a social worker and see things from a 'people' perspective outside of how inexpensive it is to make eBooks and cash-in more than with printed books. I am a writer, and writers are storytellers. The audience's access should exclude no one.

Anyone (seriously) willing to pay my patent expenses may contact me, then you will see my books in digital form sooner. Until then, buy my printed books - so I can afford the patent and fund the R&D.

StarTrek, Kindle, Sony Reader are all trademarked. I don't know how to put the symbol into blogger posts.

If you have even slightly paid attention to the publishing industry news during the last decade, you know this stuff. If you have no clue what I'm talking about (where have you been???) start here: and here


  1. You know, people worry too much. When TV came in people thought it would replace radio. Pul--leeeeeze.

    Kindle and other e-book devices will grow but they'll never replace. I have four of my how-to books on Kindle and not one of my literary books (novel, book of short stories, poetry). Part of that is because of the policies of the individual publishers but it's also because for right now how-to and business books seem to be Kindle-perfect for reading habits.

    People still want to curl up by the fire with a novel or a book of poetry. That's my theory, anyway. (-:

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Blogging at Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites pick,

  2. Carolyn,

    I agree there is a time and a place... My point was about the elitist attitude in some trade news pieces lately. Hopefully, people will think about giving their unwanted paper novels to shelters and thrift stores. As we grow technologically, we use care that we do not widen the gap between those who have and those who don't.


  3. Edit: (wouldn't you know it-sheesh!)

    The last line SHOULD read: As we grow technologically, we SHOULD use care that we do not widen the gap between those who have and those who don't.


  4. Books will always be around. They may be even more revered in years to come if they become less popular than ebooks.
    I have often seen Captain Picard of Star Trek © [I just had to be a smarty and put that symbol in there!] sitting in his office on the Enterprise reading a hard cover book with reverence.
    I have bought ebooks but there is nothing like actually turning a page. Maybe because we grew up with it. Years from now, people will think it's unusual to have to turn paper pages. It's all a matter of perspective.

  5. Joy,

    You are a card! I can't find the copyright symbol either. I could have (TM) after each one, but thought that would be distracting.

    With all the enthusiasm surrounding eBooks, I just wanted to point out that the means to read them makes them less available to everyone. Not only the homeless, but also elderly in care homes, can't have cell phones on in hospitals - what about a eBook reader that transmits a similar blip? Will airlines add, "Please stow your carry on items, turn off your cell phones and eBook readers for take off?"

    Mostly it is my Aristotelian apology (response) to frequent questions and offers to digitalize my books.

    And, long live StarTrek!


  6. Joy,

    Look what I found. I did it in April 22, post, Back On Tract. That's part of the fun of being dyslexic. My wring goes haywire. ®