Friday, February 21, 2014

53 books on my bedstand

Here's a picture of the 53 books I brought along on my business trip because I wasn't sure what I'd want to read - in case you're still not convinced that a revolution occurred.

My choice, it turned out, was to open The Book Thief. I only got about 2 or 3 percent into the story, which apparently amounts to around 12 pages, but I'm already charmed by the lyrical quality of Marcus Zusak's writing. I suspect this will be a rewarding journey. tells me it's a 578-page book, but it's skinnier than the 124-page Doc Savage adventure that I packed next to it. I have 51 other books available inside the Kindle, and I've barely scratched the surface of its capacity.

The ereader is the iPod of this decade, having done to books what the iPod did to CD and record collections: made them portable. No real revelation here, except to note that people are saying "I still enjoy holding a book in my hands and turning the pages" with the same wistful, nostalgic tone they reserve for talking about listening to records on a turntable or sharing the morning paper with their spouse.

This may be true, but the truth is that Kindles and Nooks and iPads and the like have also sparked a new revolution in independent publishing, even bigger than the print-on-demand services that allowed me to send out books like The Adventures of Myke Phoenix and The Imaginary Bomb, which had made trips to traditional publishers in the early 1990s but then were set aside because I tired of waiting 3-6 months for a form-letter response.

Instead of ordering one of my books and waiting a few days for a mail carrier to deliver it, you can start reading within a minute. And services like Amazon and Kobo make the process of distributing the book ridiculously simple for people like me. It's a revolution not much different from Gutenberg's invention of the printing press, which made literature dramatically more accessible to regular folks. Yes, you could have read ebooks for decades now on your computer screens, but the Kindle and its followers have made it as simple as carrying a book along, and that was the key.

We still need a printing press, I believe - electronic devices can fail, restricting or removing your books in a worst-case scenario (yes, even the almighty cloud could fail or be turned off), and the storage of words on paper is a clunky but so far much more reliable and therefore superior method.

In terms of convenience, though - well, I've never before packed 53 books for a three-day business trip. Slam dunk.

No comments: