In High School, I was known as a tree hugger. In fact, I was told a couple of years ago that everyone expected me to immediately join Greenpeace after graduation and sail upon the seas deterring whalers and other wrong doers from their nefarious deeds against nature. Wow, no pressure there, right? I’ve always been torn between two loves, water and the stars which probably explains why I was a competitive swimmer while dreaming of being an astronaut. Life though has a way of opening doors you didn’t even know you were looking for.
My very first stories were written on scrap paper, very short and (if my mom and g’ma were to be believed) very good. I’d go through spurts of writing, then off I’d go with some other interest until one day I’d sit and write something else. It never really occurred to me that I could write – that was for other people, people with talent. Me? I was a kid and kids weren’t writers. So instead I’d stay in my earthly world doing earthly things and try and ignore those ideas in my head after a movie or TV show because, believe me, my family didn’t need any more encouragement to think me the odd one of the bunch! So, I’d recycle my cans, go to the library, celebrate a piece of clothing handed down from friends and find other uses for 2-liter bottles and used ziplock baggies. I had a JanSport backpack that I took everywhere and it carried everything for me. It was strong, durable and incredibly versatile – I’ve used it as a pillow on trips, a back support during rest stops and even threatened to use it as a weapon once when I had someone bother me when walking after school. I’d still have it today except my kids broke a clasp and they didn’t know the piece could be replaced (lifetime guarantee, you know) and threw it out without my knowledge. So, to say that I can make something last, find other uses for it and generally would rather be drawn and quartered than toss something before it’s time is an understatement. Which could explain why I still have puzzles from my childhood that I haven’t gotten rid of, even though I’m sure more than one piece is missing – I’ll either find those pieces or figure out some other use for them, by darn!
So, years later I sit and I listen to the debate that rages between physical and e-books and wonder just what the real issue is here? I love to cuddle with a good ‘real’ book as much as the next guy, but I have the attention span of a four-year-old (c’mon… do you not know me?) so it’s easy to conclude that I can and will flip back and forth between books like a Vegas showgirl changes clothes – it’s often! So, either I go back to my High School days where I had a book in my backpack, another in my purse, one in the car and several alongside my bed, or I enjoy the versatility of an e-reader. Well, I know where the logical part of my brain is going if for no other reason than to save my back from the strain. However! I love to sit and feel the pages under my fingers, hear the sound of the paper turning page by page (or if I get bored, flip ahead until it gets good again). So where is the balance?
The more I learn about traditional publishing, the more my tree hugger side goes, “Oh, hell no!” and balks at the thought of another title being released… ever! Then again, with the new business side of publishing coming into light, print on demand is actually taking a foothold for many reasons – waste being one of them. Oh sure, print on demand titles cost more upfront but what about the long term effects? With POD there are not tons of books sitting in warehouses or, heaven forbid, get tossed into landfills. Only those books needed get printed so there isn’t the additional energy and resources being used for printing, storing, and managing of said books. All of this makes a great argument for e-publishing, right? Well, not if you consider the energy and components used to make the neat little gadgets that make e-reading possible. Let’s get real here. Right now I can read a book on my computer, phone, and my tablet (yes, I have one and it’s come in very handy as a sanity sucker…saver…whatever!). It could be the same book or a different book and, in some cases, I can put it down on one device and pick up right where I left off with another no matter where I am. Although that sounds a lot like a normal everyday book, you have to admit that when our electronic devices can keep track of us better than our kids, well… I’m starting to wonder if maybe Orson Wells knew something we didn’t. That’s another rant for another time, though. Right now I’m on the fence.
I’m a busy person who loves to read and wants to make my reading experience as hassle free as possible. I’m also someone who has diverse interests and have been known to read Popular Science one minute and a romance novel the next (and a sci-fi waiting on the side). So, short of filling up my backpack with three magazines, two books and at least one of my manuscripts to edit, I can easily put all of that on my tablet (except the ms, I’m still old school about that) and have it with me when I stop for a break or get the oil changed. Maybe the decision would be easier if they made e-readers cuddlier.