Riding the A Train in the morning I look around (as many booksellers do) and try to gauge the ratio of e-readers to print books. Most mornings it’s about 50/50, some mornings it seems to be mostly books and on the mornings when despair sets in - I see nothing but Kindles, i-pads and Nooks. But our customers like to be supportive. They come in and regale me with a broad range of anti ER complaints, so many complaints that I find myself daydreaming that I’m a bemused cartoon bookseller in a Dr. Seuss hardcover: Bellows Marilyn O’Fend; “They Just Won’t Bend!” Morris McFenddum; “Impossible To Lend Em!” The Beastly Pedendum from the back streets of Hendon, creeps in and whispers; “Too Easy to Spend Them.” Well, you get the idea. When this gets old I switch to the untimely deaths in Gorey; Lucy Sneed dropped hers in the bath. Mordecai Granger left his in the sun, young bloater Gunter Humbert, squashed his with his bum.
The number one complaint seems to be, The Feel. “No no, I like the feel of a real book.” They say. And I reply to all these complaints, “Oh yeah, yeah absolutely.” I agree 100%. I do. I love the physicality of books, I love the feel of them. How they look, how they’re constructed how they resist or submit in your hands. How on earth are you going to browse them online? A little 2D image, a tag line, a blurb. It’s like online dating; Well yeah, I like wine and a movie too but what do you smell like?
Yes I have a self-righteous little angel on my shoulder, smugly tweeting all these wonderful and accurate complaints about ‘lame’ ERs. But wait! What’s this? A little devil on the other shoulder? Even me? I, who have everything to lose and seemingly nothing to gain by the rise of the machines? With the terror comes doubt? Well you have a room full of books already, what about space? What about for like quick reads, like mysteries and stuff? Things you can just rip through and don’t want to keep? “Shut Your Fu**ing Mouth! Right Now!” Yells little angel. “I’m going to tear your Fu**ing Head Off!” You know and they’re like cheap, stuff that’s just out you can like get it right away, you don’t have to go anywhere, it just downloads in seconds. “Zip it! Zip IT! You freakin Bastard! I’m gonna come over there, I swear to God and I’m gonna… ” Little angel is pissed but he doesn’t have to worry really because although he’s an advocate, little devil just isn’t the kind of guy that can actually be bothered to go out and buy an ER and mess around with it. He just wants to pick out a book, break the spine, get his nose right in there, take a deep breath and just read the f***ing thing already..