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Douglas Adams – “Books Are Sharks”

Today’s post inspiration comes from something Douglas Adams said to Neil Gaiman that some guy heard and posted to Reddit.

“Books are sharks … because sharks have been around for a very long time. There were sharks before there were dinosaurs, and the reason sharks are still in the ocean is that nothing is better at being a shark than a shark.”

– Douglas Adams

You can find a more in-depth story about this in The Guardian, here.

The core question is whether electronic publishing will end publishing things on dead trees. Mr. Adams did not believe this, and neither do I. Here are my somewhat disorganized thoughts on the matter.

I read pretty much everything electronically nowadays. I have a Kindle loaded up with a figurative ton of books. It’s a glorious platform for reading books. Before this became available, I had to limit what I read to paperbacks that came in a form factor that fit into my back pocket. Now, I can read darned near anything, anywhere.

But, there are drawbacks. I can’t have two books open at once. This can be a problem when I’m programming and need several reference sources available. I can code in at least a dozen languages, and most projects take more than one. Let me tell you, when you’re trying to get something done and can’t remember the proper syntax for an iterator, having a book open to the right page is a real time saver. Multiple screens on a desktop computer helps a lot, but right now I’m working on a Chromebook in my smokin’ shack, which limits my options. Having everything on a Kindle doesn’t help.

Often, when I’m reading an ebook, I realize I’m missing something. I miss the weight of the book. I miss knowing where I am in the story. Am I at the beginning? The middle? Am I close enough to the end that I might as well keep reading? It’s easy to answer that question, but there’s no way to tell without taking myself out of the story.

Another big problem is when publishers sell their ebooks at almost the same prices as a paperback. I hate this. I feel like I’m being cheated.

Have you ever wanted to buy someone a book as a gift? You can’t gift wrap an ebook.

That said, I couldn’t do this for a living if not for ebooks. It’s possible I could find an agent and publisher, but I don’t like my odds. I write to a niche market, and would spend all my time writing submission letters rather than creating content.

I can write a Conway novel in under six months and get it to market in a few hours. Traditional publishing might take a year and a half to get a book on a shelf.

Sure, I have to do all my own marketing, but in the current state of traditional publishing, the author pretty much has to do that, too.

Fortunately, with the technology today I’m not locked into one or the other. I now offer paperback copies of my books on Amazon. How cool is that?

There are a lot of reasons to prefer either print or electronic. But you know what really puts me in the electronic camp? When I’m on my own and stop to eat at a roadside diner, the Kindle leans up against a napkin holder much better than a book.

That’s just how I roll.

How about you? Do you have a preference? Leave a comment and let me know!

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