I cannot live without books. - Thomas Jefferson
I've been thinking about books today. It started last night when I had dinner with my uber-smart friend DW and we got on the subject of the Internet and publishing. (I’m in the latter stages of editing a book I’ve been neglecting for three years.) The idea of shopping it to agents and publishers is not even on my radar. First, I doubt they’d buy it. Second, I’m not interested in someone chopping up my book, telling me to take out A Course in Miracles references to “sell more copies,” re-titling it and slapping my face on the cover.
My plan from the get-go was to self-publish. Like any writer, I want to say what I want to say. Plus there are self-hypnosis exercises in the book that I plan to record and make available as accompanying downloads—all the more reason, I think, to own my own stuff.
DW and I were discussing this nascent computer age that’s making our collective head explode at an ever-increasing speed and how eventually books will be of a bygone era. I told him I felt that even self-publishing seemed antiquated. (Like money. Does anyone carry cash anymore? I’m at a loss at valets.) It pains me to say it, but I think books are seeing their last days—and this coming from a true bibliophile.
My happy place is a used bookstore. My favorite, if I had to pick, is Jackson Street Booksellers in the old market in Omaha, Nebraska. Leave me alone in there for days and I’ll walk out satiated and overloaded. I have more books than clothes. I don’t shop at online clothing stores. I shop at Amazon. Each day this week Kansas and I anxiously awaited the mailman to deliver the latest: My Experiments With Truth by Gandhi.
Books (and dogs, of course) are my best friend. Nothing has accompanied me through all the various stages and moves of my life like my books. I’ve lugged them crisscross over this country. Like a song, thumbing through a book catapults me right back to where I was when I desperately devoured its tattered pages seeking something but not knowing what.
I like the way books smell. And feel. I find myself daydreaming as I read a book, thinking about my book soulmate who held the very same pages before me. Open any book on my shelf and I’ve written all over it and through it. I’ve argued with books. I’ve cherished books. I’ve hated books. I’ve cried over books. I've thrown them across the room. And I’ve laughed. Most importantly, I’ve learned. I love books.
But I’ve been thinking that I might not even self-publish. I may never hold in my hand a published book. Publishing now seems like a waste of time and paper and ink and energy and money and trees when I can, with a simple click of a button, make it available online.
After all, the true gift of a book is the journey. The way I see it, a book is ultimately the joining of minds--reader and author--cutting through time and space. As Schopenhauer said, "Reading is equivalent to thinking with someone else's head instead of with one's own." Can that not happen with a Kindle (or soon with an Iphone)? Surely it can, but my first thought is fear: “No! It's not going to be as good!” (According to A Course in Miracles, the ego always speaks first and loudest.) Then my wiser self quietly assures me, “That’s because you only know what you know--books.”
DW says today's four year-old computer savvy kids won’t know any different. We don't miss listening to music on a phonograph, because we never used them. The only people that might miss phonographs are senior citizens. We may be nostalgic for the sound of a record, but most of us wouldn't trade the ability to download a song for a record player. The generation being born today won't miss books.
I think about my grandma's father who thought the telephone was "the devil's work." We resist what we don't understand. I haven’t yet bought a Kindle. But I’d like to. Seth (of Jane Roberts' books) tells us that, on a spiritual level, people die when the world no longer makes sense to them. I don’t know why I added that. Perhaps something's telling me I better quickly acquaint myself with this approaching non-book world! Like it or not great-grandpa, the telephone is here. The technological age is arriving in full force. There is a revolution about to occur in the publishing world; as the last standing dinosaur, their time has come. A recent article in Computer World magazine put it this way:
The book publishing industry is one of the most backward, musty, obsolete businesses in our economy. While every other kind of information moves at the speed of light, the process of publishing a book is like something from the Middle Ages. For authors, it can take months to even find a literary agent willing to represent their work. Then the agent takes months to find a publisher. Then it takes ages for the publishing company to get the book out there.
People are already circumventing all this by self-publishing. The self-publishing industry is the only area of paper-book publishing that’s thriving right now. Soon enough, a huge number of authors are finally going to get fed up with the publishing industry and just self-publish electronically. They’ll hire their own freelance editors, and do the marketing themselves. The publication of a finished manuscript will take minutes, rather than months.
For a girl who still loves the sound of a record and the feel of a book, I'm inspired to begin uploading excerpts of my book here. Maybe then it will all make sense.
Reading makes a man full, meditation a profound man, discourse a clear man.--Benjamin Franklin