Thursday, June 20, 2013

Nostalgia

Status Update: on the last dregs of my current bag of beans, but I've been going through them so quickly they're not dried out yet. Next bag is queued up--it's the ultra dark, stronger-than-He-Man espresso-inspired variety. And the writing is going very well. I'm back up to my normal words per hour rate. The flash fiction had me down to around six or seven hundo per hour. Now I'm back in the mid-thousands again. Is that theme music I'm hearing? I think it is.

I've started reading one of Stephen King's latest books, the one where the main character goes back in time through a magic closet and stops the death of JFK. It's pretty good so far--but this isn't about SK, who I approve of thoroughly.

I'm reading it in hard copy, the dead tree version. And I just realized it's the first paper book I've read in a few months.

If you asked me twenty years ago about this, I probably would have given you the same lines you hear from a lot of people these days or at least you did until everybody decided e-books rock--the book is just as much a product as the words in it. The physical act of turning pages, the smell of the pulp, the must and texture of the pages. It's all part of the reading experience. The click of the e-reader just doesn't compare and machines don't have the right heft and feel to them.

But I've come to a mental place where the words matter far more to me than the format. If it could compare with e-books in terms of ease of use and portability, I would let the author beat-box her story to me. Why not?

People mourn the death of paperbacks, or for that matter anything that was popular when they were younger. The thing is, it's largely nostalgia and nostalgia is a constantly changing target.

I get nostalgic for paperbacks just like anyone else. The peculiar smell of the used book section of thrift shops. Bookstores and libraries and maybe simply paging through a friend's book collection--these are all great things. I will always have paper books around for that reason, but in the end the only thing that matters are the words. No words, you simply have stacks of paper.

I also get nostalgic for dial-up and green CRT displays and low resolution graphics. I get nostalgic about limited access to information and having to rely on whatever your local library might have had for reference sources. I get nostalgic for crappy cars with questionable electronics and build quality and the days when broadcast television was your sole avenue for movies and television shows. I even feel nostalgic for rotary phones.

Nostalgia is fickle. You remember the good parts of life and the bad bits melt away slowly like print in the rain. I am 100% positive most of the things I'm nostalgic about are rubbish, or at least mostly so. If I went back to the days before the Internet, when I was a kid, I would be BORED OUT OF MY SKULL. I mean, good God, I'd probably even have to resort to interacting with actual physically-existing, made-of-meat people for entertainment.

What will we remember about today? You never know, really. Those things that piss you off now are the things you'll probably fondly remember. "Remember back in 2013? Those were the days when we ate real food, instead of great big fistfuls of dirt. And the flies weren't the size of garbage trucks. I miss old format computers which weren't rectally-inserted at birth, too. Yeah, crazy-talk."

Having said that, there are a few things about e-books which bother me at a fundamental level. Having most of your books tied to an account which might die with the collapse of a company is bothersome. Not really being able to lend interesting books to a friend is another one--there's no used market either, which makes it somewhat harder to get word of interesting authors out there. "Yeah, this new woman? She's awesome. You should spend $15 on her book just on my word alone. Please don't think it sucks."

But mostly I like them. The instant gratification factor of being able to pop on to Amazon and have something to read within seconds. It's easy to find stuff that's even technically out of print if you don't mind drifting off the path of legality. The low barrier to entry into the publishing industry so that authors who are new or obscure can more easily find an audience. And much less clutter around my apartment. Eat it, nostalgia.

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