Friday, May 22, 2009

Let's get physical... books

Recently, I am reading more and more that it’s substantially kinder to the earth to read a book via electronic media than printed. I like that electronic media can be distributed faster and with less work than numbered printings and paperbacks. I read ebooks sometimes. And I like being green, at least in general.

But if I want to read a printed book, I will do just that. How dare Amazon (at a cost of $359 per machine, and the typical new Kindle book costing $9.99 each, sheesh. What happened to free? Free is good. I like free!) try to guilt me into buying their unit by telling me that it’s brown to produce bound books. What’s next? Printed media is a fire hazard? Physical libraries going away, for good? It all seems utilitarian and a little Brave-New-World-ish to me.

I can certainly appreciate someone writing with the intent of being listened to (The Chopin Manuscript) or with no intention of creating additional formats (Ur.) Hey, ya makes your choice! But in general, the text-to-speech thing turns me off -- I consider it old-fogey-ish. With the exception of erotica, I highly doubt I would never remember a book or story with pleasure if I had to listen to it. I like the feeling I get when I turn a page, read a well-written description, and feel my body react to the author’s writing. I get a kick out of seeing words on a page, and I like the feel of paper between my fingers. Text-to-speech reminds me of a lecture, and although I love learning, I never cared much for school. I wonder if the general public finds lectures fun! Doubt it.

Sure, bundling different media types at the cost of a hardcover (a physical book, a digital audiobook, plus an ebook) appeals to my wallet, and it’s a nice feature, but considering I typically buy hardcovers only as gifts, it’s not necessarily going to keep me from just going to the library to read a new book. And as for digital-first or digital-exclusive publications… they had better be damn good. Without free previews, I don’t think they stand a chance.

Although their advertising campaign made me look twice, and although the technology is certainly cool enough, I am certain this is one piece of electronics I will never feel the need to buy. Who out there loves it? I wanna know why.


AlanD said...

There's a HUGE distinction between "text-to-speech" and an audio-book...

You are using the metaphor of a lecture. How about the metaphor of a movie or play?

You still have the differences between a novel (typically having an omniscient narrator, at least in the ones I read) vs. a screenplay (where nothing 'happens' that isn't shown or directly referred to by the characters)... But the formats are closer.

The Clever Cat said...

Text-to-speech and audio-books... yeah, you're right. I just didn't feel like getting into it. Audio books = much better experience than text-to-speech.

Well, about a movie... for some reason that doesn't make me wanna take up arms. No idea why. Maybe because I don't like them all that much. But a play? I do know a playwright who I suspect would feel the way I do about it... and plays are written to be acted, not just heard. I still think it's unfair to the writer. In the past, when someone created something, for the most part they didn't think about the media style -- "it's done, it's made, it's created -- now look at it on my terms," would say the artist. When someone creates something, they usually want it presented to viewers, or listeners or consumers in a certain way for a proper experience of their creation. For the best entertainment experience possible (and I think if a writer writes for a reader to have the best experience possible... that seems fair to everyone), writing for an audio book is WAY different from writing for a turner of pages.