I’m not a Luddite, but I am a bit behind on the technological advances made within the last five years. Particularly in the realm of tablets, e-readers and smartphones. This is in part due to the fact that I cannot afford them myself. It is also because I have a perfectly serviceable laptop (that is not a Mac) and I quite dislike phones. I know I’m not alone in the latter category. I won’t go as far as to say I hate phones, but there’s something about them that doesn’t click with me. Maybe it’s because of how much I depend on looking at people’s mouths to understand what the fuck they’re saying and looking at their body language to determine the emotional temperature behind those words. Phones, be it through their microphones or through texting, take away those oh so essential crutches in my social interaction. Introvert I may be, I’d prefer to communicate through computer chat or face to face – no in-between.
Also, although I worry that technology is going to pass me by, I worry also that any tech purchase I make will be full of flaws and will be obsolete in just a few years, so why spend hundreds of dollars I can’t really afford? But that could be the case for just about every piece of new tech these days, so will I just go on waiting for the perfect computer forever?
I don’t know. But I’ve written about these issues I have with technology to address e-books.
I’m not an e-book hater. A majority of the erotica I read, I read online, so I’d probably be more likely to indulge in more romance and erotica in any e-reader I purchased (and I’m considering it). However, as a writer rather than a reader, I hesitate whenever I see a submission call or a publisher’s page that state they only offer e-publishing. If you haven’t read Seanan McGuire’s essay Across the Digital Divide addressing the problem of the e-book age with respect to poverty, I recommend it, because she covers those issues better than I could, given our respective histories. My own response to e-books is more personal and perhaps more selfish, but I suspect other writers and readers will share my issues.
As a reader, I dislike depending on e-readers because I have what I liked to call Technology-Induced Attention Deficit Disorder. The second I look on a screen, my attention span drops somewhere between a sugar-full toddler and a puppy. I’m a multitasker if I have a screen in front of me, be it a computer screen, a phone screen, or a TV screen, and it’s not multitasking in the good way. I can discipline myself, but it’s hard. I write better on my keyboard than longhand, and if need be, I can unfocus my eyes, which helps me concentrate more. But I’m still prone – like many writers – to surf the net every few minutes or so, whether the writing is flowing or not, but especially if it’s not. When I’m reading on my computer, I experience the same distractions. When I’m reading a book, I’m usually not sitting in front of my computer – I’m on the couch or outside in a lawn chair or I’m in a restaurant, and I’m more focused on the book because there’s nothing pixelated to distract me.
(And as an aside, I would much rather carry a book that costs a few dollars in my purse than a e-reader that costs about a hundred dollars, just for my own sense of security.)
Then, as a writer, I have my very selfish reason for wanting to chose a publisher or an anthology that offers a hard copy. It’s the same reason I like getting jewelry supplies in the mail. There’s something much more satisfying about getting a package in the mail with author’s copies of whatever book I’m in. I can hold it in my hand and feel its texture and weight and size, which is subtly different than any other book I have. It distinguishes itself in my experience. And then I put it on my bookshelf to join and add to the other books in which I’ve been published. And I can look at that shelf and have a physical representation of my accomplishments. Whereas getting two copies of an e-book is about as exciting to me as a new installation of Adobe Reader – it gets lost among the other documents in my computer. I have a high from getting published and read, but not the high of really seeing my work, of having a sense of it in real life versus virtual reality.
So, I wouldn’t want to deny avid e-book readers their e-books if e-readers are their preferred method of reading, and I won’t dismiss an anthology just because it will only come out as an e-book. I just prefer to seek out publishers who, if they can, offer both hard and digital copies. It helps me as both a writer and a reader, and I appreciate it.