Whisper it quietly...
December 14, 2014 8:22 PM   Subscribe

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.” -- Robert Jordan
During the first decade of the new century, [the book] sector cornered the market in gloomy predictions that the end of the world was nigh. The digital revolution, plus Amazon, plus the credit crunch, seemed to add up to a literary apocalypse. There were moments, some CEOs in book publishing now concede, when they could hardly see a commercial way forward. A mood of panic quickly spread, with many dire predictions.

In Britain, hardbacks were said to be on the rocks, libraries doomed, the ebook all conquering, with the Visigoths of online selling storming through the high street. Among writers, with the tumbleweed blowing down Grub Street, the garret loomed. ... Now, as the all-important Christmas season comes into play, Daunt is one of a growing number of senior people in the book trade who see that this is not, after all, the beginning of the end but – possibly – the end of the beginning. ...

And here’s where new selling techniques meet age-old instincts. 'Do not underestimate,' he instructs, 'the pleasures of reading. The satisfactions of the book, in the age of social media and proliferating cultural choices, are very singular.' The pleasures of reading morph into the aesthetic delights of print and paper. Reading a favourite novel on a screen is like tasting a vintage wine through a straw. The unintended consequence of the ebook, Daunt reports, has been to make many readers return to the hardback.
posted by SpacemanStix (28 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I thought this was going to be a WoT movie announcement and was ready to lose my damned mind.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:42 PM on December 14, 2014 [21 favorites]


*tugs braid*

*buys books*
posted by betweenthebars at 9:03 PM on December 14, 2014 [29 favorites]


I admit, when I read him relating reading a book on a e-reader to drinking wine with a straw I preemptively decided he was an idiot. Then I read the article and where it said Anna Karenina was one of his favorite books I knew I hadn't been too hasty.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:07 PM on December 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


For me, the value of this article is not about getting excited about big box stores somehow figuring out how to navigate the changing climate of book sales, but that perhaps there are creative ways to think about books that will allow us to tap into aesthetic concerns that the changing times seem to be ignoring, in favor of moving towards electronic mediums. I love e-books, but I also love paper books, and I'd love to see us not totally abandon creative thinking about the latter as if it's a foregone conclusion that everyone is going to embrace the former.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:14 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Reading an ebook while drinking wine through a straw is just a warm tub short of a perfect evening.
posted by srboisvert at 9:14 PM on December 14, 2014 [28 favorites]


I thought this was going to be a reboot of Wheel of Time and was about to lose my mind because I've fought endlessly to finish this series for the last 6 years and never seem able to conquer it. I am much happier to see it's actually a revival of bookstores.
posted by lilac girl at 9:17 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


but that perhaps there are creative ways to think about books that will allow us to tap into aesthetic concerns that the changing times seem to be ignoring

I was in a bookstore in Salts Mill in the UK, and I was struck by how beautiful a lot of the books they were selling were. I wouldn't be surprised if books that are themselves aesthetically pleasing objects are better sellers than your as gifts, as house decoration - and who knows, maybe even for reading?

I think the idea of book-as-luxury-good will definitely become more prominent, and the e-book will mostly take over the pulp paperback market.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:24 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I thought this was going to be a WoT movie announcement and was ready to lose my damned mind.

Try 22 movies. With Hayden Christensen as Rand al'Thor.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:34 PM on December 14, 2014 [11 favorites]


WoT

Too soon. Also, why I have not yet started reading game of thrones. But, I am glad books are back. I like books.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:36 PM on December 14, 2014


I got an e-reader pretty recently, which is probably a bit weird for someone who reads as much as me, but it's kind of a revelation. I think it only really works for certain types of literature (it's fantastic for short story collections, for instance, and for fiction in general), and it allows me to impulse buy a lot more, as well as read a lot more, since I have it with me more often.

I do think a pretty big advance in speed and UI would be required for me to even consider giving up paper books altogether, though, but it's at least slowed down my compulsive physical book buying and the required ever larger space. I now reserve paper book buying to stuff I know I'll want to read several times, things I'm sure I'll love, reference and technical books (especially those with illustrations), things that require a large format (photography, art, comics), and just general pretty books. Ebooks has taken over all short fiction, random recommendations, most genre fiction (especially the stuff I'm not sure whether I'll like or not), and stuff I tend to read on the go.

I really think both will coexist for quite some time. I don't think physical bookstores will last, though. Amazon is just too practical.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:57 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Brandon Sanderson did a lot of good for this series. All I'm saying.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 10:20 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


*runs over to hug his paper books*

don't worry babies, it'll be all right.
posted by Justinian at 10:51 PM on December 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


I love books. The feel, the smell, the worlds within. What I don't love is that I only have so much physical space for them. I have more than 1000 books on my Kindle. Daunt is free to kiss my plush ass.

He is also free to STFU about wine and straws and "vintage". Most wine is "vintage" -vintage is the year the grapes were harvested. And if you want to drink it with a straw because it makes you happy, drink it with a straw! Certainly the winery I volunteer in won't hunt you down.
posted by MissySedai at 10:55 PM on December 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


I do admit I'm running out of space for my books. I may have to move.
posted by Justinian at 10:59 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Turn down for WoT

Got that dumb Grauniad article about Waterstones saving the book instead.

*tugs braid*

*crosses arms*

*sniffs*
posted by MartinWisse at 11:01 PM on December 14, 2014 [10 favorites]


Physical bookshops are far superior for browsing for new books in than online. I read primarily ebooks, as I have way to many bookshelves already, but I rarely find anything interesting in the books that amazon suggests for me. There has been a book on chicken farming in my list for ages. No idea why amazon has decided I want to read about chickens.

I must admit that I often pop into the bookshop up the road to browse for things to read on my kindle. I assuage my guilt by buying lots of presents there. I realise that I should not take living six minutes walk from an independent bookshop for granted.
posted by kjs4 at 2:30 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Science has said that reading on a screen is not as effective as reading on paper. Anyone who is a voracious reader and has done both has probably already developed subtle or acknowledged preferences and will avoid certain types of books in electronic form; I've never been able to get into science fiction and fantasy on a screen, as pleasure reading it's way too bound up in tactile sensations that just don't work on an e-reader.
posted by graymouser at 4:23 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


graymouser, that study is flawed. PDF files on an LCD screen are not the same thing as genuine (responsive) text on an eReader, or even a well-designed responsive web page. PDF files are the devil.

I have a hard time believing that eReaders are any worse for fiction and non-graphical non-fiction, because the physical experience of reading is not the same as an LCD screen. It feels more like paper to me. Of course, for professional texts in my field, which often include diagrams and code listings, I get the paper book; but for historical texts, philosophical texts, and fiction, eReaders have effectively replaced my paper book habit.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:32 AM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also, doesn't it sound like the guy just wants to turn Waterstones into Barnes & Noble or Borders? It seems like Britain is just a decade behind the US.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:32 AM on December 15, 2014


I tend to think pleasure reading is bound up in however you are able to accommodate it. I've read all manner of books, Sci Fic and F amongst them for 38-ish years now. 34 of them strictly in paper form and the last 4 a mix of paper and ereader. I enjoy both. I like reading, I'll read a cereal box (if I ate cereal), and try not to fetishistize any particular form of it too much.
I totally get why people love paper-form books, absolutely, but in the end for me reading is reading.
posted by edgeways at 5:21 AM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


My partner has a Kindle, so I've had a chance to use it. The actual reading part is really nice -- clean text, good light/dark balance, plus it is light and easy to carry, and cheap enough that you don't need to be delicate with it. But I'm still tied to the tactile sensations of reading, and especially tracking where I am in the book spatially, and it will be hard for me to ever give that up.

I do admit I'm running out of space for my books. I may have to move.

The last time I moved, I probably sold almost 2000 books. I'm down to just one overstuffed six foot high bookshelf, and would like to reduce that a bit more in the next move, to get down to just the books that aren't easily available from either the public or university library systems plus those with sentimental value, plus frequently-referenced books like cookbooks and shop manuals. I feel pulled in both directions -- I love the way a room looks when lined with books, but I also like owning less stuff and books were becoming a significant percentage of my possessions, and right now I'm tipping in the direction of Less Stuff.

As long as this is working for me, I'll continue only buying books-as-art and books-as-tools -- limited run books of photography by favorite artists, or how-to books to use as references during major projects, say -- and continuing to rely on the public and academic libraries for the majority of my reading. I have been experimenting with audiobooks for long drives, but it is surprisingly tricky to find the right combination of a book that works well read aloud and with a good reader.

So between my partner's ebook purchases, my audiobooks, and the art and reference books that still get bought, we are probably spending as much on books as we ever have, but without stacks of physical books growing in the corners of every room.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:03 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


i like some books on kindle and some on paper. terry pratchett's discworld series i can borrow from my library on my kindle and breeze through them.

a recent book i got was about maps and has lots of illustrations...this is a paper book.

(I did read most of the WoT on my kindle and all of GoT. )

i like bookstores and am glad they are making a resurgence. i very often will find a new book there that i wouldn't have come across otherwise and i generally buy it in paper if i found it in paper, unless the ebook is ridiculoulsy cheaper and i don't have the cushion to pay $30 more for the paper version.

*crosses arms beneath breasts*
posted by sio42 at 6:14 AM on December 15, 2014


If you drink your wine through a bendy straw you don't have to buy one of those expensive aerators.
posted by murphy slaw at 7:32 AM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


For myself, since I got my Kindle I can't think of a single reason I'd go back reading paper books really.
posted by lbebber at 11:25 AM on December 15, 2014


The quote is hilariously appropriate for me, since I just started my first reread of WoT after its completion... on my tablet, from the omnibus-edition they put out for the Hugo voters' packet.

(There's something very nice about knowing that they leave the Two Rivers at the 1.7% point of the whole text.)

Anyway. I used to think that I loved books, the physical objects, inextricably from how I loved books, the contents. But then I got a cheap Aluratek e-reader just before a three-week vacation. And ended up taking close to 100 books with me for the intercontinental trip, instead of the agonizing decision over which three. That was a road-to-Damascus moment.

And then I discovered that the two loves were not inextricable, after all.

I still like owning paper books, and am keeping the ones that mean things to me. But I buy very few fiction books in paper format any more, and even with nonfiction, given the much better screen of my tablet... And I _read_ far less on paper. Pretty much the only paper books I've read the last year have been the ones I'd already owned, or borrowed from the library.

I own the entire Wheel of Time on paper. That series has made me meet the best friends I've made on this continent, so to say that it means things would be understating it. But I don't think I'm ever rereading them on paper.

(Technical books are another kettle of fish.)
posted by seyirci at 12:33 PM on December 15, 2014


I admit, when I read him relating reading a book on a e-reader to drinking wine with a straw I preemptively decided he was an idiot. Then I read the article and where it said Anna Karenina was one of his favorite books I knew I hadn't been too hasty.

Is liking Anna Karenina some kind of strike against him? What a crime liking a literary classic.
posted by ersatz at 12:39 PM on December 15, 2014


lilac girl: I thought this was going to be a reboot of Wheel of Time and was about to lose my mind because I've fought endlessly to finish this series for the last 6 years and never seem able to conquer it.

Read summaries for the first 11 books that you don't remember or haven't read, then read the last three. Sanderson does great things with the series, making it all enjoyable again (I LOVE what he did with Matrim Cauthon!). I bought the ebook of the final book and I devoured it.


seyirci: The quote is hilariously appropriate for me, since I just started my first reread of WoT after its completion... on my tablet, from the omnibus-edition they put out for the Hugo voters' packet.

(There's something very nice about knowing that they leave the Two Rivers at the 1.7% point of the whole text.)


I read GoT on a Kindle, after picking up the 5 book compendium on sale from Amazon. I didn't really sit down and get immersed until the very end, because I got a bit dejected after reading for 30 minutes and only seeing the percentage to shift one or two tenths.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:05 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Physical bookshops are far superior for browsing for new books in than online. I love the serendipity of finding books by browsing. Booksellers may face out their favorites, or the new book that they have 50 of, but it's still one of my favorite activities. E-readers haven't won me over, though I keep a few books on my phone for emergencies. Having a flood and losing 1/3 of my books freed up a great deal of shelf space, and books provide insulation, so I'm keeping them. As far as using an e-reader in the tub, my track record with paper suggests that I'm far better off with books that are easily dried out. And the library doesn't mind a few wine stains.

The point of the article being that books are not dead, and bookshops aren't either was incredibly encouraging.
posted by theora55 at 3:15 PM on December 15, 2014


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