Last week, Stephen King released his most recent book: Joyland. It’s one of his Hard Case Crime books – the first he released under the Hard Case Crime label was The Colorado Kid in 2005 (which has since been turned into the television show Haven on Syfy, and that has branched out in its own direction and is actually surprisingly quite enjoyable.)
A couple of months ago, I went online to pre-order my copy of Joyland. I’ve been doing that lately with books I really want; it reminds me to read them (I’ve got a lot on my plate, what can I say) and I like knowing the book will be waiting for me on the day it drops. I don’t do this with many authors or for many books – Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Stephen King, John Irving, Owen Hill earlier in the year because I wanted to have the book read before I met him for him to sign it. Most things can wait for a bit. I’m patient, and I have a lot of things to read.
I was surprised when I got online to see there was no Kindle edition of Joyland offered. I’ve run out of room for paper books; there are very few books lately that I’m not getting electronically or from the library. It’s a common-sense thing at this point. If I had more room, maybe Belle’s library from Beauty and the Beast? I’d buy more paper books. But I don’t have that, so I don’t. I also love reading on my Kindle. It’s easy, it’s eminently portable, the text is crisp and clear, it’s better for bed-reading…I could go on. I won’t, but I could.
I bought the paperback (less than $10, could be worse) and it was delivered on Tuesday. I read it. I reviewed it at Insatiable Booksluts if you’re interested in that sort of thing. I liked it very much. It was a good summer read, a quick one. I was done in a few days.
But there was a lot more going on with this paper book vs. ebook controversy than I was aware of.
sj pointed it out to me, originally. See, sj has problems with her hands, so reading paper books is an issue. Therefore, all that reading she does (and you guys, seriously, I don’t know if I know too many people that read more than sj, she’s amazing) is mainly on her Nook. She’s a huge King fan. We talk King all the time. She therefore can’t read Joyland. “But Amy!” you’re saying. “Don’t worry! She could listen to it! There’s an audiobook option!” Yes. Yes, there is. But should she have to? In 2013, should she really only have the option of either listening to the book or not reading it at all, a book from one of the most popular authors of all time?
But here’s the thing. Apparently, you can’t SAY King should have released an e-book as well. Why? Why can’t you say that?
Because of the treebook snobs.
The treebook snobs, in case you haven’t met them in the wild (and you’re a lucky person, if you haven’t, I wish you luck in never meeting them at all) say the following things:
- E-reading is killing paper books.
- E-reading isn’t REAL reading. The only real reading can be done with paper books.
- I would never buy an e-reader. Buying an e-reader is the modern equivalent of burning a library.
- No one is buying paper books anymore. Do you really want to be the death of paper books? DO YOU?
When people started complaining about Joyland not being available as an e-book, the treebook snobs came out of the woodwork. “Ugh, SUCK IT UP,” said the treebook snobs. “You’re meant to experience this novel in PAPER. If you can’t read a simple PAPERBACK, what is WRONG with you.” And on and on and “we are so haughty” and “blah blah WE KNOW BEST” and the sort of things that snobby people say that make you want to tenderize their cerebellums with a mallet.
Then Hard Case Crime got in on the action. They apparently felt the need to justify why they hadn’t offered an e-reader version of the book. Click for the full article, but here are the things that stood out to me:
…But one thing our books are is a shrine to a particular way of consuming stories and the particular object that for decades delivered that experience to millions of people. An object that has dimensions and heft and feels a certain way when you handle it, that looks a certain way when you thumb its pages back, creases a certain way when you jam it in a jacket pocket or a lunch bucket. Shape and form and texture matter. The past matters. Preserving things we love matters. And insofar as we want people to remember something we love, putting an example of it in their hands is a powerful way to do so.
So: Joyland. A book. A paperback book, by and large, and one I cherish and that I hope other readers will cherish as well. Not those who angrily proclaim on Internet message boards, “I’ll never read a paper book again!” – there isn’t any hope for those, their souls are too tattered for repair – but those who see our little bit of yesterday and feel their hearts beat faster, scent a bit of their own younger days on the backward-blowing breeze.
…For just one day, unkindle your Kindle and nook your Nook, lie back in the bath or on your sofa or beach chair or with your head on the grass, and read the way we used to.
Tomorrow will still be there when you’re done.
You’re telling me how best to enjoy your work. How I need to enjoy this book. As if I have never read a book before. As if I am new to your planet. “This is a BOOK! Here on THIS planet, the best way to experience literature is in PAPER books! Not (ugh) e-books!”
I am a grownup. I can decide for myself how to “experience” literature. And let me tell you how I want to experience it: with my eyes, you supercilious bag of dicks.
Some people might like to experience it with their ears. I am not an auditory person; I miss things in audiobooks. I like to read. With my eyes.
And here, let me tell you something that you apparently have missed: all reading is reading.
Oh, did you miss that? I’ll say it again.
Whether I’m reading from a screen, a paper book, a cereal box, a newspaper, a magazine, a billboard, a pamphlet, ot the back of a DVD box, I AM STILL INPUTTING INFORMATION VIA WORDS INTO MY BRAIN. What is confusing about this to people? Reading is reading.
There’s no “best way” to experience a book. Well, I mean, I’d like to experience a book on a beach in like 70 degree weather while someone refills my fruity drink. That seems to be a very good way to experience a book. But I don’t notice that being on the table, Hard Case Crime.
And as for the “ebooks will end paper books” people – well, listen. I don’t know if we’ll ever see the end of paper books. We might. We might not. I don’t know; I can’t see the future. I’m not a fortuneteller. But I do know that I used to be a paper-only proponent, until I got a Kindle. And now that I have the Kindle, I see why everyone loves them so much. And I don’t even have any handicaps that make reading paper books uncomfortable for me. I’m pissed enough at the holier-than-thou tone of voice these people are taking; if I had an infirmity and someone started telling me I wasn’t a “real” reader because I used an e-reader to get my word fix? I WOULD KICK ASS SO HARD. Isn’t that like telling someone in a wheelchair they’re not really experiencing a walk in the park because they’re using their wheelchair? Or like telling someone with a hearing aid they’re not really experiencing a concert the way it’s supposed to be heard? Would you treebook snobs do that, too? No. Of course you wouldn’t. Don’t be ridiculous.
Listen. I’m kind of infuriated about this. No one is taking away your books. No one is coming to your house to burn them, all Fahrenheit 451-style. If paper books are your thing, great. If e-books are your thing, great. WE DON’T HAVE TO FIGHT ABOUT THIS. There is no reason to fight. And you know what? It doesn’t go both ways, usually. I don’t see a lot of e-reader users attacking paper-book readers as Luddites. We don’t care. I read just as many paper books as e-books. I think I single-handedly keep my library alive. I have more library books currently checked out than will fit on my library shelf.
It is ALL READING. It is not the death of paper books. It is TECHNOLOGY. Life goes ON. It is what life DOES. Move with it, don’t, I don’t care, but STOP JUDGING OTHERS WHO ARE.
Listen, you all know the story of the Star-Belly Sneetches, right? I believe we’ve talked about this before. How the Star-Belly Sneetches thought they were SO MUCH BETTER than the Plain-Belly Sneetches, and went around with “their snoots in the air” until Sylvester McMonkey McBean showed up with a machine to put stars on the Plain-Belly Sneetches’ bellies. Well, that didn’t sit well with the Star-Belly Sneetches! So he charged THEM money to take the stars OFF their bellies! And back and forth it went until, laughing, he left town – and half of the Sneetches had stars, and half didn’t, and no one knew which Sneetches were the original snooty Sneetches. Old Sylvester McMonkey McBean says “you can’t teach a Sneetch!” but he’s wrong, because “The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches/And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches./That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars/And whether they had one, or not, upon thars.”
Listen, treebook snobs. We’re all Sneetches. Every last one of us is a Sneetch. Whether we’re a Paper-Book Sneetch or we’re an E-Book Sneetch. (Some 0f us can actually be BOTH SNEETCHES AT ONCE! Yes, it’s totally true.) You need to look up from your words on paper and realize we’re each and every one of us Sneetches, with a common goal: putting beautiful words in our eyeholes (or earholes, not to discriminate against vision-impaired people…or maybe their finger-spaces, for those readers of Braille.) Stop attacking your fellow Sneetches and just be happy your fellow Sneetches are reading. Because do you know what’s more terrifying to me than a world without paper books? Any ideas?
A world where no one reads at all. A world where we’re not having this fight because there’s no need for it; a world where no one cares about e-readers or paper books because books and words and authors and thoughts themselves are obsolete. The world that Fahrenheit 451 predicts, where people live in houses surrounded by inane entertainment and books are not only something people find uninteresting, but something they find dangerous enough to burn.
Books are books and words are words and Sneetches are Sneetches.
And if you tell me (or my beloved friends) one more time how I have to enjoy literature, I’m going to smash you over the head with my very pretty orange-cased Kindle. I don’t deal well with bullies. I’m one ornery Sneetch.
(For further reading on this topic, please read Heather’s post, Dear Haters. She is most truly the best kind of Sneetch.)