I didn’t get up this morning wanting to rant. No, I’d planned to write about the NYT article yesterday about Amazon’s latest foray into publishing and how it has legacy publishers quaking in their boots because they can’t figure out how to adapt to new technologies, pricing and product demands from their customers. But that’s going to have to wait. I have to rant.
As you’ve probably figured out from some of my earlier posts, my morning routine consists of feeding the animals before they start eating my ankles, pouring as much coffee down me as quickly as possible and reading the news and checking a few blogs and discussion boards before starting work. Call it my way of making sure the world still exists and I haven’t, somehow, managed to get myself sent to Wonderland or Oz or the Twilight Zone while sleeping.
Well, this morning was no different. Except one topic on the Kindle boards sent me into full-blown rant mode. I can grit my teeth and ignore — sort of — those authors and editors and agents who put their political beliefs out there on facebook and condemn everyone else who doesn’t agree with them. I think they’re foolish for doing so because they don’t know who they might be needing to deal with tomorrow or the next day or the day after that. So why risk making an enemy when you don’t have to? If you have to talk politics or religion using social media, at least limit who can see it. Remember your mother telling you there are two things you never talk about at the dinner table: politics and religion. That really is a good rule to remember, especially when it comes to social media. But that’s not what today’s post is about.
No, today’s post is thanks to the fellow who thinks we ought to outlaw trade paperbacks. Now, when I saw the subject line of the thread, I figured he was like so many others, myself included, who don’t particularly like TPBs because they aren’t quite the size of hard covers and definitely larger than mass market paperbacks and, therefore, difficult to store. But no. It wasn’t that simple, or that reasonable. He wants to ban them because they are bad for the environment.
Yep, you heard me. Trade paperbacks are bad for the environment and should, therefore, be banned. After all, we have e-books now and they are so much more environmentally friendly. Apparently, now that we have such easy accessibility to e-books, there’s no reason to keep killing trees, using fossil fuels to make and transport trade paperbacks, etc. Oh, we can continue to have POD books, but let’s get rid of TPBs.
Okay, I get the environmental concerns. Of course, the original poster doesn’t take into account the environmental impact of making and then discarding of e-book readers. But I’m not going to get into that. What sent me over the edge were two basic issues I see with his statement. The first is that it assumes everyone wants to read e-books. They don’t. It is going to be years before we see a saturation of the market with e-readers the way we see with cell phones or computers or TVs. Until then, alternatives are going to have to be offered. It just makes business sense to. More than that, I honestly believe there is always going to be niche markets for printed books.
But what really got to me was the fact that the original poster suggested banning ONLY trade paperbacks. He didn’t say ban printed books. He didn’t mention hard covers or mass market paperbacks. ONLY trade paperbacks. They are not the majority of books printed, not by a long shot. So, why target them as the segment that needs to be banned to save the environment? It makes no sense.
And don’t say it’s because he didn’t know any better. The guy’s an author. If he doesn’t know there’s more than one format of books, he’s been living under a rock and has never been to a bookstore or browsed one online. No, I can’t help but think this was his way of trying to garner interest in his own books without violating Amazon’s rules against self-promotion on the Kindle boards. How, you ask. That’s simple. People tend to click on a poster’s name when that poster says something that either interests them or has them asking ‘WTF?”. By doing so, you are taken to the poster’s profile and, from there, you can click on the OP’s weblink. Which, gee, advertises his books. Books that are, I’m sure, also listed on Amazon.
But there’s something else that bothers me about his post. Whether he actually believes what he suggests or was trying to get a discussion started or just wanted to be a troll and get folks upset, I don’t know. But when someone, anyone, starts suggesting we “ban” any form — or format — of a book, I start looking over my shoulder. Paranoid? Possibly. But it is such a hot button word, I can’t help it. It is a knee-jerk reaction. If we “ban” one format of a book, what’s to stop us from doing it to others? Say we did decide to save the environment by banning TPBs, that wouldn’t really impact the carbon footprint of the publishing industry. It wouldn’t take long before the reports to say so. Then we’d ban the other printed books. After all, people don’t read that much any more. All the studies show it. Besides, fi they want to read, they can read e-books. Right? Oh, wait, Joe doesn’t want to. No problem. He can go to the library. We’ll continue to let books be printed for libraries.
Picture me rolling my eyes and gagging right now. There’s a simple economic truth that this argument forgets. Libraries have to pay for their books. Some they buy outright. Others they lease. That takes money and, whether you know it or not, libraries are strapped for cash. Communities are cutting library budgets which often results in fewer hours of operation, fewer employees, fewer new books on the shelves. Sometimes, it even means closing libraries. So now we’ve banned the printed book except as POD for libraries. The problem with this is that it wouldn’t be a money-making proposition for the publisher or author if they priced the book low enough for most libraries to be able to afford it. If they price the book high enough for a reasonable profit, the libraries won’t be able to buy it. So, no new books.
But, taking the original poster’s argument the next step, one he didn’t take. If we are going to ban trade paperbacks and, presumably, all other printed books, shouldn’t we also ban printed newspapers and magazines? What about all the printed junk mail we get through the mail? Oh, and if we’re banning printed books, does that include textbooks? What about prayer books, bibles and hymnals for churches, etc? I can see it now. Sunday morning mass and the priest turns to the congregation and tells them to get out their e-book readers or cell phones and go to the hymnal app for Hymn No. 32.
Rolling my eyes again.
Will there come a time when we will see e-book production outpacing the printing of hard copy books? Sure. But to argue that we should ban the printing of just one format of books to save the environment is not only ridiculous but short sighted as well. Okay, no more ranting…at least for a little while.
(Cross-posted to The Naked Truth)