By this time I assume most of those who visit this blog know about the announcement from Dorchester Books to halt publication of mass market paperbacks and move exclusively to publishing POD trade paper or electronic books. It was explained, near as I can see, as a matter of fiscal necessity, but to me it smacks of a lack of understanding and respect for books and the publication thereof. It’s a cheap-and-easy cop out.
Company President John Prebich:
“Dorchester’s e-book business has had “remarkable growth” which he expects to double again in the next year. Still, digital sales accounted for only 12% of total revenue prior to the company making the transition to the e-book/pod model. Prebich conceded that Dorchester will have lower revenues, but he expects margins to improve.”
[note: emphasis mine]
Dorchester publishes many romance titles and I don’t care about those, but other people will. I care about the westerns and mysteries and some other titles. There are some good books and it seems they will become part of the new format scheme or be discarded. I wonder: what if those expected profit margins don’t make the bean counters happy? Will the company fold? Certainly any title not performing will be dropped.
The entire electronic bookreader and e-publishing trend is starting to scare the heck out of me. I’m a dyed in the wool book guy. I have thousands of the things in my possession, and I’m happy about that. Would I trade that for a thin metal box that has the printed text of all those books? Not on your life.
“I’ve been thinking about Dorchester’s switch from paperback to e-book format for the last couple of days, and one thing it’s brought home to me is how much I enjoy the tactile experience of buying books. I like taking them off the rack and reading the blurbs on the back. I like opening them and reading the blurbs and editorial material on the first few pages. I like looking at the print to see how big or small it is. I like looking at the covers. I guess I like the whole browsing experience, which more often than not leads me to buy more books than I intended to. All of that is lost when it comes to e-books, and it’s a heck of a loss in my case.
The reason I’m thinking about this is probably Dorchester’s western line, which was always well-represented in the only place to buy new books in Alvin, Texas: Wal-Mart. I like spending time in front of the rack, looking over the new titles, looking for books, by people I know. Browsing e-books just isn’t the same.
I know that real books will be around for many more years, but not Dorchester. I’m gonna miss ’em.”
I couldn’t agree more, Bill. For me, it’s everything you said, and that tactile experience continues with the reading of the book, opening and closing it, inserting a bookmark when I stop reading, glancing at the amount of pages left to the end of the chapter or the book, turning the paper page and running my finger lightly down the center of it, referring to the cover or front matter (When was this first published again? What does the map show? Who is the illustrator? Where in the series does this fall?). The weight of the book in my hands, being able to hold a paperback in one hand while taking a sip of my drink, or a bite of a cookie or whatever, looking at the spines of the books as they rest on the shelf. All these things are important to me. No, not as important as what’s on the page, but important enough to keep me from wanting e-books and an e-reader.
Faugh! Let the tween-to-thirty generation (TTT-Gen) have their electric-battery-powered-miniaturized-app-mad world, but leave we grown-ups our ink-and-paper books! Sometimes I think the accountants who seem to rule the world will drive us all to the brink of despair.
Will this change my personal book-buying habits? Perhaps. The shift from mass-market paperbacks to trade paperbacks has been going on for some time. At least half, maybe two-thirds, of the softcover books I buy now are trade paperbacks. Not by choice, but because that’s the only format available. I understand that for some publishers it’s a matter of necessity, and I’m sure that’s what Dorchester would tell me if I asked them. But for an existing publisher with a wide line mass market paperbacks in print to just stop is something else again.
The deeper question, I believe, is why are books falling so out of favor, and the answer has to do with more things than I can go into or even understand, I’m sure. I blame the lack of emphasis in education on books and reading, I blame the mad affair the TTT-Gen has with all things electronic, viewing them as “hot” and “sexy” as well as necessary to fit in with peers and have a minimum acceptable quality of life. The most important thing to them seems to be the answer to the question “Isn’t there an app for that?” Yep, there is, and a piece of hardware for it too, so what could be better? The Real Thing, that’s what. But it might take a teeny bit of effort, and that would be a terrible imposition, wouldn’t it?
Libraries, book stores, paper-and-ink books, who cares? I do, dammit. I’m pretty worried. What would I do if I woke up tomorrow and found only ebooks available anymore? First, I’d curse. Then when I felt better, I’d plan on using the library as long as it had any print books I wanted to read. I’d also rely on used book stores, as Bill Crider reminded me in the first comment to this post, as long as I was happy with a used copy. Right now I’m not always okay with used. I could use book swapping sites for books I wanted, and of course I’d do the most obvious thing of all, I’d read the books I have but haven’t gotten to yet, and reread the ones I have read and liked. With any luck that would get me through, but it would still be a nightmare I’m not ready to live.