Monday, July 9, 2012

Embracing the Present

As a kid, I used to listen to my music on 45 records. Eight track tapes were still around, but the technology was being phased out. When the 45 went by the wayside, along came the audio cassette. Remember how much fun it was to have your tape player eat the cassette forcing you to patiently spool it back into the cassette all the while hoping it still played when you were done? After the cassette came the compact disc. Now, I can get all my music digitally. Much the same thing happened with movies.

When I was a kid, it was impossible to get copies of movies. You saw the movie in the theater and hoped someday it would be run on television. I still remember the thrill I’d get from seeing Mary Poppins or The Wizard of Oz or The Sound of Music once a year on television. Somewhere along the way, the beta movie cassette player was released and then the VHS. Somewhere in there was the laser disc, but I don’t think it really caught on.

When the VHS started to go the way of the eight track and audio cassettes, I swore I would not replace movies I owned on VHS with DVD copies. I’d stick to my VHS. That plan lasted as long as the old VCR did. I grudgingly replaced the format of my favorite movies feeling confident it wouldn’t need to be done again. What could be better than a DVD? Try a blue ray! Again, when the blue ray was released, I made the same vow. I will not replace my movies. I will not embrace the technology. DVD copies are fine. While DVD isn’t yet an obsolete technology, my refusal to consider replacing my DVD movies with their blue ray counterparts is an obsolete plan.

Not long ago, the same thing that happened with my music and movies started happening with books. When I started out as a writer, the electronic book was being touted as a wave of the future. In the last several years, it’s become such the norm that brick and mortar book stores like my beloved Borders are being shut down. Some would say the declining economy played a part in this, but I’ve always placed a large chunk of the blame on the more affordable and often lesser quality e-book. The manner in which these books can be read is as varied as the genres offered. It used to be the Kindle was the only way to read an e-book. Now, there are several options in a wide range of prices.

Those of you who know me won’t be surprised when I say I’ve been resistant to the technology. When I read a book, part of the connection I feel to the story comes from being able to hold the book in my hands. That’s not an easy task to accomplish with an e-reader. Then there was my argument about not being able to have an author sign an electronic device like she could sign the actual copy of the book. I said that, but ask me how many signed books I had from authors and the answer is none.

If it wasn’t for the fact that a colleague of mine released her first novel last year and only made it available in the e-book format, I might have continued down this path. However, I’m always anxious to support a fellow author, especially one who’s been so supportive of me. While I don’t have an e-reading device, I did manage to get an app on my mobile phone that allowed me access to purchasing and reading e-books.

That said I have a bit of a confession to make. Despite downloading this e-reading app some time ago, I’ve failed to follow up in reading any of the books in my electronic library. I suppose it’s that purist in me that’s been so resistant to it. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason I finally felt compelled to jump in and give it a go this past weekend. You know what?

It wasn’t as bad as I expected. There were some problems with font size and screen size that I can’t really do much about, but it’s been manageable. The bigger problem is that I sometimes like to go back and reread earlier parts of a story when I get deeper into the book. With the e-book that’s a bit harder to do but not impossible.

While I’ll never get over my love for the printed book, I have to admit that e-books aren’t as bad as I thought. I would say I’m embracing the future, but the truth is I’m embracing the present. About time, huh?

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