Saturday, April 21, 2012

Paradigm Shift at the Bookstore?

by
Scott D. Parker

I experienced something interesting this week and I'd like to share it today. But first, you must know two bits of background.

Like every reader here, I love books. I love the feel, the smell, and the look of them. I love cracking the covers to see what type of font the publishers have used. The covers, especially the best of them, can hook me with barely a glance (as good covers are supposed to do).

Naturally, with all this paper love, bookstores are like a candy store for bibliophiles. (Yeah, Mr. Obvious) Here's a part of my psyche where I might be different. One of my favorite tables at any Barnes and Noble store is the trade paperback one. Here, last year's important books find a new home, often with extra content--like DVD extras--in the back. The recent editions of Michael Chabon's books follow this pattern. Additionally, the lure of trade paperbacks tug at that something indefinable within me, that part of me that knows I need to put down the sixth Tarzan novel and pick up something weightier. It's irrational, to be sure, but it's there. Lastly, when I see these books, I visualize myself reading them, either on my deck, in my library, or in a reading chair. There's a certain sense of emotional attachment that is planted in me, and it gestates and grows. The downside of this is that might have trouble, sometime in the future, of parting with a particular book. The upside is that all of that emotional stuff can become so tied in with the book that I have a stronger love for a particular book.

That's how I used to be and, partly, still am. But a strange something happened when I visited a Barnes and Noble this week. But, to understand this, you must know the other bit of background: I now own an iPad. I've had a Nook for nearly a year, an iPod Touch for two, and a Palm Pilot before that. I've been reading e-books for longer than they've been all the rage they are now. It's great to have some reading material on hand when standing in line at the grocery store.

Reading on the iPad, however, is another thing altogether. Man, this thing is gorgeous! And, yes, the size of the viewing area is a major factor in its gorgeousness. I have all the main reading apps--iBooks, Nook, Kindle--and loaded all--and I mean all--of the books I am reading. Throw in the awesome comic reading app, Comic Zeal, and this device is now my primary reading medium.

So, there I was, in Barnes and Noble with my wife and I walked by the trade paperback table. There they were. Just waiting for me to pick them up and read, flip through, get hooked, and buy. There were some titles that I'd like, too. But that old urge, that old feeling I used to get was absent. You see, I had the iPad at home. Perhaps my emotional attachment is there now.  Likely it is (I've only had it two weeks) but it just might be the game changer in terms of reading for me. For comics, it is, hands down. I have read more comics in the last fourteen days than I have in months.

For books, however, I'm thinking  that a large chunk of my reading paradigm is changing. It already has for music. With my most recent purchase, I opted for the ebook over the paper book. Perhaps that says it all. Who knows. All I know is that I visited a Barnes and Noble and experienced something new and the absence of something else.

Tweets of the Week:

I've been reading A. Lee Martinez's blog posts for awhile and recently completed his newest novel, Emperor Mollusk vs. the Sinister Brain (my first of his). I'm already reading another: The Automatic Detective. The best word I can use to describe Martinez's stories is "glee." He must have it when he writes because his tales are just so much fun. Martinez is always good for some pretty nifty tweets, and three struck me this week. I am in a fallow period with my writing, but his insight hit home for me. I present them here, all together.

I've been hemming and hawing on this particular chapter, but sitting down and writing it is really all it took.

95 percent of writing is writing. It's both incredibly obvious and often overlooked. Write your damn story and it will get written.

Talk about writing your story, outline, plot, character sketches, etc., that's all busy work. It feels like writing, but it isn't writing.

Album of the Week: Vijay Iyer Trio - Historicity (2009)

I just got this album a few days ago and I'm still discovering all of its nuances and melodies, but it is a stunning piece of jazz music. I'm rarely a piano trio kinds of guy (piano, bass, drums), but this one has circled my radar since it came out. I'm glad I finally picked it up. His original compositions are deep and intricate, but I particularly enjoyed his rendition of "Somewhere." Mainly, I liked it as a kind of rosetta stone for his style. I know the melody and seeing how he breaks it down, rearranges it, and puts it all back together is enabling me to get inside his own material. I'm not always a huge fan of working at listening to music, but this one is different. I'm enjoying the challenge.

1 comment:

seana said...

I work in an independent bookstore, so of course I should be snarling at this post, but in fact, I hear a lot of resonances in it. We have new computers in our store, which in some ways are the bane of my existence, but on the other hand, they ARE new computers, and I found myself flipping over to the New York Review of Books on screen and finding that it was really somewhat easier to read than in it's beloved paper form.

Another thing that happened recently was that I was dragooned into doing magazine strips. I don't usually have anything to do with this, so I was kind of unprepared for the task of taking off the covers of hundreds of magazines. We bemoan the loss of newspapers and magazines all the time, but I don't think it had ver struck me so viscerally that the whole system for distributing these things is so wasteful. Here I am in one store, stripping off the covers of ten Rolling Stones, ten Cosmopolitans, and so on. Of course, we recycle paper all the time. But what I was struck by was the fact that, regardless of content, these were beautiful, well crafted objects that were never going to be used by ANYONE. Made to be destroyed, their destruction is factored into the equation.

I don't have answers on any of this stuff, but your post struck that kind of chord in me.