In a piece of E-book boosterism appearing on BNET last Friday, David Weir wrote, "I met a guy at the Las Vegas airport last month who told me he purchased a Sony Reader so he wouldn’t have to lug around 20 pounds of technical manuals. Now he finds himself buying more fiction than ever before because it’s so easy and convenient."
I used to carry around a Sony Reader loaded up with manuscripts so I understand perfectly the enormous relief it brought to that business traveler's shoulder. But what about Weir's second sentence? I thought to myself, what made it so difficult and inconvenient for this guy to buy fiction before? Did he not have a bookstore, chain or indie, nearby? Could he not order books on-line? Was the very physicality of books an impediment to their purchase? And exactly how much fiction was he buying before? If he's like most Americans, not much at all. Perhaps because it's not easy or convenient for them.
Maybe Weir should've written, "Now he finds himself buying more fiction than ever before because it’s so easy and convenient and cheap."
A cheap novelty. You remember the first couple of weeks after you got your first iPod. Whee! -- you downloaded like crazy, all kinds of stuff, good, bad, indifferent. After a while though, the magical act of downloading became less magical. It became mundane. Anybody could do it. Anytime. Anywhere. When the download process became boring, you started paying closer attention to what you were buying. Uh-oh. Those cheap ninety-nine cent purchases added up fast! Not to mention the tedious process of deleting the tripe you'd added to your playlists in that initial burst of enthusiasm for The Shiny New Thing.
I can't imagine buying more fiction because it's "so easy and convenient." Just like I can't imagine eating McDonald's every day because it's so easy and convenient. My bowels couldn't take it. I buy fiction because I want to read it. And very often I merely borrow it because I don't need to own it. I've bought and borrowed and read fiction for years, way before the advent of the e-reader, and never thought about the relative difficulty of finding what I wanted. If a book and I were meant to meet, we would.
Now I look at all the unread books sitting on my shelves and think to myself, geez, I hope Weir's businessman has the time to read all the fiction he's buying. In addition to 20 lbs. of technical manuals. I know I couldn't do it, no matter how easy, convenient, or cheap.