11 January 2012

Books are not Commodities

The Digital Reader posted an interesting article about how Amazon has turned books into a commodity.

Their argument is that with the prevalence of eBooks, readers now search for better and cheaper alternatives.

I know that many of you will clamor to say that I am wrong, but I ask you to consider this: Once you have bought and read the latest release from your favorite author, do you stop buying and reading books until that author’s next release in 2 or 3 years or do you continue to buy and read books within that genre? And if you do continue to buy and read books, do you continue to be entertained by them or are you only entertained by books written by your favorite author? Finally, do you rush out to buy your favorite author’s newest release or do you wait for a less expensive edition to appear?
If you answer yes to the latter parts of each question (at least the first two questions), then books are commodities and substitutable.
Books may be commodities for some, the casual fans or sometimes-readers. But for those of us who are bibliophiles -- answering yes doesn't lead to the right conclusion.

I continue to buy and read books in my favorite authors genres because I enjoy the genre. I am entertained by the books of my favorite authors and look forward to them immensely and am happily surprised when new finds are just as entertaining, if not more so! I rush out and buy new releases, sometimes, and sometimes wait for less expensive editions. This is more about budgeting and whether I started collecting the series in hardcovers or paperbacks.

Books aren't really substitutable to me. While both Harry Potter and Harry Dresden are wizards operating in a magic world pushed up against our own, they are hardly substitutable for each other. Just because Michael Connelly and Tess Gerritsen write novels based in police procedure, Harry Bosch and Jane Rizzoli aren't the same as detectives. There's no substitute.

Does this mean that some fiction isn't just a cheap, derivative copy? No. We all know that exists and are terribly disappointed as readers when in our quest for something new, we run into something borrowed. It's the plague of a writer too to twist the conventions just enough that their new idea won't be that derivative offering.

I like the prevalence of eBooks. I appreciate that it's changing publishing and hopefully, eventually, for the better, opening the faucet of work out there.

Books have been becoming commodities ever since Gutenberg invited the printing press. We can hardly blame ebooks for making books into something that we can buy more of. And technology is only fueling the hearts of readers, not extinguishing them.

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