Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Meditation on My Ideal Book Format

It would be an unusual day if I didn't encounter a new article on ebooks, format wars, or a dire warning about the death of libraries, publishing, and print. As I've written here before, I prefer to read books on paper, but I do move around a lot and I want to be able to read everywhere all the time (yes, even the bathroom) so that I can squeeze as many books as possible into my life. I have been envisioning a comprehensive package that would allow me the tactile experience I love about print books, but also enable me to listen to same book in the car or read the ebook version in line at the grocery store, even if I haven't planned ahead to borrow the same book in three formats at the same time.

My first concept would probably be a nightmare to manufacture and would no doubt be immediately obsolete, but it made me giggle:

Drawn when I still had a car with a stick shift.
I have been idly contemplating this for a while, but what brought me back to it was a news item that Angry Robot will be giving away ebook versions of their items--at select stores--when customers purchase the print version. Why is this option not automatically made available for all newly published books? With both audio and electronic versions accessible (when they've been created) at the click of a button, having some kind of tiered pricing/package system for consumers like me should not be impossible.[1]

My pipe dream:

For a new hardback title, I would be happy to pay from $15-20 for the "base" book, which would be whatever edition I purchase first, whether print or electronic or audio. Let's say I bought a print version of Lois McMaster Bujold's upcoming book Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (hardback list price: $25.00), preordering it as I usually do through my local independent bookseller. On the eve of publication, I become so overwhelmed by desire to read the book that I pay an additional $5-$7 on top of the list price for the ebook version to be delivered immediately. I have to sleep sometime, though, and I don't finish the book before it's time to drive to work in the morning. I don't want to stop reading or call in sick, so I purchase the audio version for an additional $5-$7 on top of what I've already invested. I'm happy that I'll be picking up the print version, because I know this is a book I want to keep and re-read, but I'm willing to pay $10+ for a short-lived (format-wise) electronic and audio experience. I think it's pretty clear that my child will not be inheriting my ebooks.

Unlike a library, I don't have the money to spend on the print book and the ebook and the audiobook if they are all packaged and priced separately (around $75.00 minimum). Nor do I think that I should have to; they are the same intellectual property and the shelf-life of anything electronic is questionable at best. However, I do understand that artists should be compensated for their work, and I know that ebooks and audiobooks come with their own associated production costs. I am willing to contribute money to offset those costs and indicate that they are valuable to me.

In my vision, any of the three versions could serve as the "base" version . . . if I buy the audiobook at $15-20 and subsequently decide that I really want the print version as well, I should be able to "add it on" through my local bookstore or the publisher for a fractional cost.

I realize that I may a bit of an oddball, because I will not be buying anything from Amazon or a large retailer at a deep discount; I pretty much always pay list price unless I find something used. But I am very willing to pay that price to support both my favorite authors and local businesses, especially if I could have the format flexibility that would fit my peripatetic lifestyle. In the meantime, I'm happy patronizing the library and buying books that I've already read.

Am I completely insane? Obviously, the numbers would have to be adjusted for mass market books. I would love to have a discussion about this.

Meditation Index

[1] Entitled, internet-having, and willing to spend a chunk of cash on books.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Meditation on Reading Deadlines

I recently participated in a panel at the American Library Association conference which required me to read (or at least familiarize myself with) a large chunk of nonfiction books by a certain deadline. I am not a very good skimmer--I tend to get caught up in reading from wherever my eyes land--and I'm not a very fast reader, either. I knew I had to buckle down. What I discovered when faced with this hard deadline was amazing diversity in my procrastination methods.

With a large pile of sports books to read (most of which I actually wanted to read), I:
  • Perused the new fiction section at work
  • Perused the romance section at work
  • Perused the science fiction and fantasy section at work
  • Requested books I knew I didn't have time to read through interlibrary loan
  • Requested audiobooks, which I thought I could justify a little more easily, through interlibrary loan--even though I had a pile of sports audiobooks as well
  • Eyed the books on my shelves at home and contemplated re-reading, which I haven't allowed myself to do for several years
  • Started at least five non-assigned nonfiction books that looked interesting
  • Started and finished several romance novels
  • Started and finished Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Checked Twitter
  • Checked Google Reader
  • Checked Facebook
  • Checked Twitter again (x100)
  • Reorganized my To Be Read list
Many times I wouldn't even consciously realize I was procrastinating until another day had passed and the pile of unread books remained at the same daunting height. It would simply "slip my mind" that I had a lot of reading to do, given the weight of important tasks such as laundry. I spent more than twenty years of my life in school. I remember being able to do my homework in a timely manner. No more.

I guess I also remember working on projects the night before they were due, as a matter of course.

Should I just declare myself incapable of reading things "on time"? Please don't put me on an awards committee (I blanched when they described the rigorous selection process at the Carnegie medal award ceremony) unless I have an entire year to read fewer than fifty books. My habits of reading slowly and reading ten things at once is one reason that I don't seek out a lot of advanced copies of books; by the time I get around to actually reading them, the book has been published and any buzz has long since dissipated. However, I do actually get around to reading books that have been recommended to me, even if it takes two, three, or even more years.

I am happy to report that I did eventually get all the required reading done for my panel, so maybe I'm not completely hopeless. How did I manage it? By creatively procrastinating until the pressure was intense enough to spur me into action. This graphic seems appropriate: I've done a lot of perseveering and persavowing during the last few months. It's good to know that I can do it, even if I always take the long way around.

Meditation Index