Amazon’s recent launch of the new range of Kindles is making the digital storefront more accessible and less than likely to fade into online oblivion.
As someone who quivers at the smell of a new book – fresh ink on pulp, crisp leaves between the thumb and forefinger, anticipating the end as the back of the book nears – I have a special love for the physical experience of reading. With the endless possibilities of the e-ink experience I was also aware of the limitations before making the jump into the digital reading world.
One of the physical experiences is wandering aimlessly through the nooks and crannies of the maze-like world of a bookstore – new or used – browsing, reading, searching, finding and purchasing. Then wanting to get the hell home asap to start reading!
How does the online experience compare?
Firstly you have to forget the past. Secondly you have to forget your judgements of staring at a web site, scrolling through its clinical facade. Mobile devices are helping the online retailers rebuild the storefronts… in your hands while you’re sipping your morning coffee. Your device is your personal space and you’ve chosen it because it suits you. Now you’re in a comfortable, familiar online environment – wherever you are (bed, toilet, train, office).
By selling e-readers or tablets, retailers like Amazon are putting their stores in your hands and creating a NEW book browsing experience.
But where does that leave my relationship with my favourite authors? As dealers like Amazon and other online merchants re-imagine the retail environment before our very eyes, how do the publishers intend on tackling the issue of “face-time” with their readership?
Although one of my favourite authors is Scottish-born and Scottish-living Iain Banks (or Iain M Banks depending on what you’re reading of his), and the chances of him landing in SA for a book tour are slim to none, I’d be first in line if he ever did take that leap across continents – not that I’ve ever been to a real book signing event.
But, now that I’ve bought your e-book, what is the relevance of a book signing event for its promotion? You may be my favourite author but a signed first edition is going to be impossible to get in the near future. If it’s an e-book will publishers set up an online e-book signing via Skype and we get into a virtual queue, upload our copy and when it’s our turn tell said author what we’d like then to embed on our copy of their digital tome?
“Hello Mr Author, please can you e-sign my copy of your e-book on my e-reader.”
Physical vs Online experiences aside – I can now (usually for free) find and download rare or out of print classics, and within minutes I’m reading something I’ve been searching for for years. I don’t have to print unnecessary pages to read long online articles – Instapaper sorts that out pretty well.
So I guess what I’m saying, after all that, is that Iain Banks may have to settle for signing my chest – physically.