Why buy a book? It doesn’t mean the same thing as it used to. Now it might mean why buy a PDF or a Kindle book, or some other electronic format. But I am interested in looking at, why buy a physical book as opposed to an e-book?
A physical book is something of a contentious idea nowadays. It’s death knell has been announced and decried all over the place, but it has survived the death of a lot of brick and mortar stores. It is like those people who pronounce rock and roll dead every so often, or guitar music, or jazz – all it really signals is the critics own signal lack of imagination, or that of the purveyors of said cul-de-sac version of the art-form they are trying to bury. It is still a big money concern, and this is great news for readers, writers and champions of literacy everywhere.
The value of the book has been reaffirmed by situations such as the fight between Amazon and certain publishers over the margins of profit for publishers and authors. People are passionate about their local bookshops, and people want to save their local comic shops. Harry Potter still makes the headlines whenever some kind of spin off story is released – despite the often repeated claim that people don’t read anymore, column inches are dedicated all over the place to writing.
Books themselves have become art objects – the weight and quality of the paper, the cover design, some interesting limited edition feature … they are as much an aesthetic thing as a source of information, and people see them as an investment. You only rent your Kindle Library – you never own it, and Kindle can come in and delete it whenever they want. It has changed in the same way that vinyl records have changed – they used to just be the only format you could buy, but now they represent a conscious decision to buy; an aesthetic decision.
So how do you advertise them? How do you seduce someone into buying your latest novel or poetry book? For someone who doesn’t care and just wants to read the words you have the e-book, you have the vanilla pulpy mass market paperback (something disposable that can be read once and allowed to fall apart). But an actual good quality book that someone wants to keep? It has to have something” special cover, signature from the author, a gimmick, high quality paper, nice typography, illustrations maybe. It is still the same reading experience, but it taps into that sensual quality that all well made books speak to. It’s the difference between driving a Rolls Royce and a Fiat Punto – they both get you from A to B, but a Rolls delivers you in style.
I am of the opinion that you should buy a book because it’s a good read, but a nice folio edition is a draw for me to. I collect – so having a nice durable copy of something that is nice to look at and nice to handle is something I appreciate.
Are you all about the words or do you buy for the feel of the book? Or is it a combination of both?