Sunday, January 30, 2011

It is said that physical books are quickly becoming obsolete.

Many people still love the feel of curling up with a cup of coffee (or whatever!) and book in hand.  They love the feel and even smell of a physical book.  Cracking the cover for the first time of a book that arrives in your post is almost a spiritual experience for some people.  Me included!

(An aside: I remember how no one in the house was able to open the newspaper and take anything from it until my father was done with it, or until HE distributed sections to family members.  I always waited for the Comics section.)

Many book lovers adore visiting brick-and-mortar stores like Borders where they can sit in an atmosphere of  book bliss with other book lovers.  Kind of like the atmosphere in a library but only better because no one insists that you be quiet :)

Book lovers insist they will never buy Kindles or other e-readers.

But I wonder if the publishing industry will force people to re-consider their position by making physical books less and less available for purchase. 

Some of you can remember what it was like when music formats changed.  Vinyl record collections and the equipment to play them on became harder and harder to obtain to the point that many record lovers were forced to abandon them for tapes or CDs.  Try to buy a new car with a tape player in it!  Now, most people have digital music collections.

It is predicted that physical books will go the way of the vinyl record in the future.  We will all have a digital book shelf.  I already have one with Kindle and iBooks.  It's so cool to look at your digital book shelf, click on a book cover, and voila, there's your book!  I like that digital books are searchable.  This is especially cool for Qur'an and ahadith collections.  You can even highlight sentences (Gasp!  What will happen to the highlighter pen market?) or bookmark sections (no more dog earred books) so you can go right to them when you need them.  Makes reference and research a whole lot easier.  So, e-books and e-readers do have some benefit.  But I don't want to read literature or poetry in e-format.

Part of the pressure for society to move toward the e-book format comes from the publishing companies who are making it more prohibitive for authors to publish their work in physical book form and still make a profit.  Everyone profits from an author's work except the author.  Print-on-demand publishing can also be financially prohibitive.

As a writer, I know all this and don't have the patience or finances for it.  That's why I do the majority of my writing right here on my own website.  I also ordered the book pictured in the beginning of this piece.  I may try my hand at making books.  I do collage occasionally and have a lot of cool papers and other materials.

For me, writing is not a commercial venture.  But for those writers who write books and want to make money, too, I can understand.  Some writers don't mind having their book published in e-format, but many would rather have their book come out in one or more other formats so that there is choice for the consumer.

Choice is becoming obsolete for readers, too.

Let me give you an example.

I bought the e-book, The Seventh Telling: The Kabbalah of Moshe Katan for a class at the Spiritual Care Center of our local hospital.  The author is Mitchell Chefitz.  This work, is the first in a trilogy by Chefitz.  In it, he uses fiction to teach kabbalistic themes.  I initially purchased the book as an e-book because I am always a little wary of buying "textbooks" and then being stuck with them.  Between my husband and me, we have zillions of books, Masha Allaah, so book shelf space in our house is at a premium.

But I loved The Seventh Telling and learned so much from it.  I wanted the physical book, so I purchased a hardback.  I was then eager for the second work in the trilogy. 

I was able to purchase a hardback copy of the second work in the trilogy is The Thirty-Third Hour which uses fiction to teach Torah themes.  Read it.  Loved it!

Since The Thirty-Third Hour was published in 2002, I thought that surely the third and final book in the trilogy would be out.  But alas, I searched and searched and couldn't find anything online about it.

So, I had the brilliant idea to search for the author on Facebook and Alhamdulillah I found him!

I sent him a private message, asking about the final book in the trilogy.

He responded and told me that the third book would be out soon, BUT it would only be available as an e-book.  Oh wow!  Was I bummed!

How can I put an e-book on my library shelf along side of The Seventh Telling and The Thirty-Third Hour?!I can guarantee you that it will do something to my spirit to see the space on my shelf that this e-book will create.

I wrote Mr. Chefitz and told him this.  He responded that if the e-book does well, physical publication may be a possibility in the future.  (St. Martin's Press published the first two books in the trilogy, not sure why they won't/can't publish the third one unless it is Chefitz' decision.)

But *whaaaaa*  I want the hardback copy!  What upsets me is that I won't have a choice.

I don't like not having choices.


Emiratesque said...

Hello there,

Have you tried listening to audio books?

I really like the fact that we have options to benefit from books. But nothing beats old fashioned way in my opinion. I like the smell of a new book. But I also like that I can read an e-book while in bed and while lights are switched off, because the e-book has a backlight.

Audio books are amazing if you drive for long hours and you don't want to get bored, or you just want to listen to a book while driving anywhere.

I listened to the Cormac Mccarthy's The Road recently. I enjoyed it very much. But I wouldn't listen to a business book for example because I will need to highlight :)

I am glad I found your blog BTW.

noona said...

Your posts about hardbacks make me miss them and want to own a big shelf of them :D.
I switched to ebooks about 6 years ago, not that I read much anyway, but there's a certain comfort in ebooks that I can't find in hardbacks, probably the easy access and the ability to switch between different tasks at hand on the computer, but now i am motivated to buy more hardbacks for a good view (decoration, after being done with the reading, obviously), also, unlike ebooks, it gives a sense of achievement of how much you read. so yeah each has its upsides and downsides.

Also, I hope that you've been doing great, and always looking forward to your posts!

Safiyyah said...

@ el Shahlab: Ahlan wa Salan and Insha Allaah you will visit often! Yes, I HAVE used audio books! I have a whole shelf of them. Funny, but I don't think of them in the way I do e-books. When I worked full-time, I had a one-hour commute each way. I used to "read" a lot of audio books to make use of the time. I also speak Spanish, and like to listen to Spanish audio books to keep up my Spanish.

@ Noona: Oh! My Noona! I have missed you! How are you? Are you still in school? You know, I have heard it said that books are the soul of a home :) Yes, I've been doing great. Jazaka Allahu Khayr for asking.

Sketched Soul said...

As-salaamu'alaykum my dearest sister,

It will be a VERY sad day when printed words are no longer printed. So far I've stayed away from an e-reader.. but like you said, I might not have a choice one day .. baahumbug :(

Look forward to hearing how bookmaking goes.. if you end up trying it out.

Love Farhana

noona said...

dear Safiyyah! I have missed you too, i noticed that the last couple of months or so you weren't writing much. I am okay too, thanks for asking.

umm, yes i am done with my first degree, not sure what i am going to do next, i am hoping to start my masters degree in oct, but i took 2 distance learning courses this semester toward my next degree, and found out how much i favor self studying from hardbacks :).

i will keep an eye out for your booklist, oftentimes I have no idea what books to look for, so it helps to learn an interesting friend's booklist, today i finished reading "the last lecture", which I saw on a colleague's booklist few years ago along with the "the fifth miracle", so i will be checking out this one too.

love and hugs!

American Muslima Writer said...

Hehehe reminds me of an IWA discussion

Now minds are turning to ebooks for cheaper faster publishing.

I guess getting one of my stories in ANY form of Book would be fabulous.

I do hope one day to have Ebook collection because I've read so many sci-fi books as a kid where they all had vid-books and I always wanted one but I'm saving up for that and meanwhile these fabulous sales my store Magrudy's had has stocked up my shelves FULL!!!!! I lived for 4 years in Lebanon with limited collection and felt so stilted and now it's like rolling in luxery to have a full bookshelf...OF UNREAD BOOKS!!!
It's good I stocked up though...things might head down from here for a while again, we'll see, I'll update you.

XOXOXO Love the book picture!