BookCamp Vancouver 2010 – Part 6

The Bonus Session: Print Books

@jmaxsfu Cranbury: so what is it about the physical book?

Physicality of the book is still important.

@jmaxsfu Physicality of book involves having a tactile sense of limits. @bookpromogirl

Some thoughts that online/ereader good for short pieces, print for longer works, which I tend to agree with. Why? Suggestion that with a book you’re able to see the entire text and know where you are in it, whereas when you’re reading an ebook or online it may feel bottomless (don’t have a good feel for where you are).

@jmv A feeling of bottomlessness with ebooks; compare the evolutionary development of the book; digital brought back vinyl; elitism?

Print books have a specialness, can be given as a present. Compare the signed first edition hardcover or limited edition art book with “Hey, I downloaded the latest Dan Brown for you. Happy Birthday!” 😉

@jmaxsfu Physical collectibility/giftability of books… Is this decoupled from the actual reading?

Maybe pbooks are like vinyl records? The idea being that people buy the hardcover to look pretty on their shelves, but actually read the ebook. I think some publishers are bundling hardcover/ebook. Apparently some people buy vinyl records (to display) but listen to CDs/MP3s.

@jmaxsfu People buy vinyl, even though they may listen digitally.

Really? I thought vinyl-buyers bought it because of the sound was more “authentic” than digital and all that. No? I think this is probably another case where you have a divergence: a group who really prefers the hardcover/vinyl for its original use value and a group who recognizes the collectibility of such items and/or their cachet as, hmm, well not exactly status symbols. Coolness signifiers? Do hipsters read books? (If I shout that question out the window, will a hipster answer me? Ok, now I’m getting punchy.) Anyhow, if you’re a purported hipster buying vinyl/hardcovers for your shelves but actually reading ebooks on your iPad and listening to mp3s on your iPhone, I think your hipster cred has sailed 😉

@jmaxsfu Publishers’ efforts… Enough? Not? Perception, reality?@jmaxsfu Cranbury hopes publishers will do more with vinyl.

@jmaxsfu How big is the vinyl market, really? There is some debate…

Some prefer pbooks for some kinds of books/reading, ebooks for others. This makes sense. What I find a bit perplexing, however, is that it’s often novels/pleasure reading that people say they prefer in ebook format. My impression is this is because they don’t plan to re-read the book, so they sort of view it as disposable. I guess it’s something like the 21st C version of how in HS, I’d go to the used bookstore in my spare (yeah, I was cool like that), trade in the mass market paperbacks I’d read the previous week and use the store credit (alternatively, you could get cash, but if you chose store credit you got a higher rate of return) to buy a new stack. But two crucial differences: 1) I didn’t trade all the books back. I kept the ones I thought I’d re-read (I used to do a lot of re-reading) and 2) I got $ for taking the books I’d read back.

Where was I? Oh, yes. It’s just that I think the pleasure reading/ebook connection is kind of odd. Maybe if I didn’t spend all day most days in front of a screen, I’d feel differently. But for me, reading a book for pleasure is something I look forward to doing away from the computer, away from the association with work. I mean, sure, I can see the appeal for travel and such situations. But in general, when I’m at home, it’s nice to get away from the electronic devices for a bit  and just read a pbook. IOW, for pleasure reading, the pbook has more use value to me than an ebook does.

On the other hand, if we’re talking about reference material, stuff I’d use for research, etc. I much prefer that be accessible in an e-version (assuming one that is not freakishly annoying to use), because with that kind of stuff, I’m not just reading, I’m also processing, taking notes, making connections, writing, etc. and having it all available digitally and in one place makes all that so much easier. And I mean, there’s no bigger waste of time than having to type out quotations, am I right?

@jhope071 Content is not king, how people use content is king.

@Kathleen_Fraser Terry McBride at TedX Vancouver:

The gist: context, not content. Think about selling experience not content.

  • it’s about behavior, not owning content
  • away from content, toward context
  • connection of artist and fan

I liked this way of thinking about it. I’m committed to having TC remain open access; I don’t want readers to have to pay a subscription to read it. I also don’t want to charge writers to submit; I think that’s super-cheesy. So, the question remains: how do we generate an income stream that’s steady enough that we’re able to able to pay writers?

The workshop that Baker ran earlier this year was very successful. What if we could somehow tie the workshop idea in with author interviews? Like try to get them to either provide something as an incentive for workshop sign-ups (a writing exercise, a book giveaway?) or maybe even have a guest appearance one week at the forums or chat. Author X could answer questions for a limited time and afterward everyone goes back to regularly-scheduled workshop, but all inspired.

@jmaxsfu A plea for building a book culture, in Vancouver and elsewhere.

@jmaxsfu Wisdom from @art3fact on selling experiences vs selling manufactured objects. We won’t win in price wars.

@jmaxsfu Experiences are individual… Not mass services, not commodities – @adamgaumont

There was a good point made about the fact that kids/teens are actually buying print versions of popular YA books (Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games). (Would be an interesting comparison, pbook/ebook reading by age.) I think that’s partly logistics—if you don’t have a credit card it can be hard to buy stuff online. Probably it’s also partly visibility: if you’re reading a cool book, you want people to see what you’re reading. But I think the major reason that pbooks are still popular with kids is the way kids read. Kids get totally absorbed in their books. I read an essay about this recently, let me go find it. Ah, here we go.

So, the appeal of a pbook to me is that it’s a unitasking device. You fix yourself a snack, you find a cozy place to curl up, and you read. And at first you might be distracted by your environment, but if it’s a good book, you eventually get completely into it, doing nothing more than reading and turning pages and occasionally adjusting your position because your arm or leg has fallen asleep. And while I still do this sometimes now, it’s not often enough, because I’m distracted by adult things. When I was a kid I read this way every day.

And so I think adults like ebooks because they’re doing 27 things at once and ebooks make it easy to squeeze in a some reading on their commute or on business trips or on vacation. But they’re not contained the way pbooks are. They, especially iPads, don’t block out the world. Ebook reading is shallow reading, pbook reading is deep reading. I think that’s part of the difference between the two.

With a pbook, you might underline a word or phrase but you’re not automatically clicking it to find out more. And yes, I’ve heard the argument that clicking for a definition is no different than going to look up a word you don’t know in a dictionary. But I disagree. As a kid, deep-reading, I never interrupted my reading to look up words I didn’t know (and I still don’t do it now when I’m reading for pleasure). I gathered what they meant from the context and moved on. Later, if I thought about it when I had the dictionary out, I might look it up then. But never while I was reading. I think that’s a huge difference. But I think it would be impossible to stop yourself from clicking. We’re so used it. You’d just do it without thinking. Hence, your reading would be shallower than with a pbook, because you’d be less in the story-world.

Death! (of the book, of reading, of everything analog…)

Coincidentally, when catching up on my blog-reading post-conference, I ran across this: R.I.P., Mock Obituaries which led me to this: The Tragic Death of Practically Everything (hilarious!).

Oh, and here’s a book trailer for a book about a… book (which sort of ties into the thing I was saying earlier about why pdf might not be a book per se):

#bcvan10 was great. So glad I went 🙂 Thanks all to the organizers & presenters!     October-01-10 5:06:24 PM  via web

Yesterday: recap of fourth session