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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why So Happy?

Lately around the interwebs, I've seen people gleefully proclaiming that ebooks have killed off paper. I don't understand this attitude.

Before I go any farther, let me explain that I do own an e-reader (mine's a Kindle 2 and I bought it when it was still incredibly expensive) and I buy most of my fiction in e-format. I like having the book I want arrive instantly. I like the convenience of having hundreds of books with me. If I change my mind on what I feel like reading, I'm not stuck with the story I thought I wanted to read. I also like the fact that ebooks don't take up room in my house.

On the other side of the coin, I've e-published my short stories from the two Mammoth book collections I was part of and I'll be publishing my backlist titles in e-format, too. I've written two Harlequin Nocturne Bites which only come out in electronic format.

This is my way of explaining that yes, I like ebooks, and yes, I read ebooks, and yes, I've been published in electronic format. I have nothing against ebooks, nor am I a champion of paper books.

When I see these paper books are dead posts, it's the tone that irritates me. Why are these people so happy about this? Personally, I don't feel strongly one way or the other. If I were sharing the statistics on the percentage of books sold in e-format, I would do it with a newsy approach. An oh, isn't this interesting attitude. So when I see people ready to dance a jig on the grave of mass market paperback, I wonder--why?

For authors, it's usually pretty easy to come up with an answer, but it's the readers who are so elated that have me scratching my head. Are these early adopters who feel vindicated that the format is finally gaining traction? Is that why they're so happy? Because they've been "proven right?"

While I'm happy ebooks are doing well, I don't pop around the internet singing ding, dong the witch is dead, which old witch? The paperback witch. It's a format. It's a technology. In twenty years, maybe we'll have something completely different.

If you're reading pixels or if you're reading the printed word or if having the book inserted into your brain via nanoprobe doesn't make any difference. The only thing that does matter is the story.

So yeah, why do some people feel so much joy when one format overtakes another? It's like rooting for MP3 over CDs and I've never seen music fans doing this. They might debate sound quality in various formats, but that's tangible. And in books, as long as the ebook is formatting correctly, there really is no quality difference, just preferences for the reader.

My guess is I'll be puzzling over this for a while. No answers are occurring to me.