I have this conversation with a lot of people. I tell them I work with ebooks, that I enjoy making them and even reading them, too. “But what about print?” they ask. “How can you be a part of the demise of print publishing as we know it and the collapse of the industry?” (That last part may be a dramatization).
But those people have it all wrong. I love print. I have a tiny bedroom in an apartment in Boston that is positively overflowing with books – I’ve filled more than two bookshelves, and the ones that won’t fit on the shelves are currently organized two deep on a small table. And yet I also have a Kindle Fire, an iPad Mini, and an iPhone with four different e-reader apps downloaded onto it. It’s not a case of either/or – just because I love ebooks and think they have their place in publishing doesn’t mean I think print should die. I love to read my print books when I’m relaxing at home. When I’m just looking to browse for books, I’ll stop by a bookstore to see what they have to offer – and then actually buy the books there, not on Amazon later that day.
But when I’m taking the subway during rush hour, crushed up against numerous other people, my personal bubble completely and utterly collapsed, I love the fact that I can pull out my iPhone, open an ebook, and read. I love the fact that I don’t have to dig through my backpack for a paperback I don’t have the room to hold out in front of me. When I’m at the gym, I love that I can just put my iPhone on the shelf on the machine and not have to worry about the pages staying open. My iPhone is always with me, which means my ebooks are always with me as well.
The bottom line: when it comes down to it, I would prefer owning a print copy to an ebook copy. To me, the substance of a print copy, the way it lines up on my bookshelf, and the fact that I can do with it whatever I please are things that an ebook currently can’t provide. But the absolute convenience of my ebooks outweighs many of their downsides, and, in the end, as long as people are reading, isn’t that enough? Print books will be around for the foreseeable future, but so will ebooks – people just need to realize that they can coexist and that they both have their time and their place in publishing. It’s not an “or” – as in, “Do you prefer print books or ebooks?” It’s an “and.”