I’ve been collecting juvenile books for a long time. The 100 girl series books I treasured as a kid followed me into adulthood. After connecting with other series collectors, I found more series to collect. Within a few years, 100 books became 1,000. Now I have over 5,000 juvenile books in a home library. Have I read all of these books? Heck, no! I’ve only read a fraction of them. But by collecting them I am preserving a piece of history. And I love all my precious books.
If I hadn’t collected most of my books before the internet became the third dimension for modern life, I wouldn’t have such a good collection. I have complete collections of Nancy Drew, Dana Girls, Trixie Belden, Beverly Gray, Penny Parker, Vicki Barr, Anne of Green Gables, Sammy Keyes, Judy Bolton and many more. Most of my books were found in secondhand bookstores, thrift shops, garage sales and trading with other collections. It was challenge to find treasures and I rarely paid over $10 a book. Now if I want a treasure, it will usually be found online. While it’s quicker to search the internet for books, the fun of the treasure hunt is gone.
As an author whose books are selling more e-reader copies than paper copies, I wonder about the future of book collecting. Downloading a book doesn’t mean you own it. You can’t loan it to a friend. You can’t display it on a shelf. And how reliable are reading devices for protecting your e-library? Many people are choosing the convenience of downloading rather than the tactile experience of cradling a book in your hands and flipping pages.
Lately I’ve wondered where the world of paper books is headed. I’ve heard many opposing theories of what will happen. I’m in the camp of the “books surviving” theory. I think publishers will continue to publish books in many different formats: audio, paperback, hardback, e-books. But I do wonder about all those books going directly into devices. Will readers be able to keep their stored books or lose them as devices keep evolving? Will only the bestsellers survive and midlist books fade to e-file obscurity? How will readers find their books? Will there be book collectors? If so, will paper books become a rare artifact that only wealthy collectors can afford?
One thing is for certain: E-books are here to stay. There will be more of them and a variety of prices and publishers. There have been some big successes of self-publishing like Amanda Hocking. But as more authors self-publish directly to e-book, success will be a steeper ladder to climb. I’ve heard many writers, especially eager new writers, say they’re skipping submitting to publishers and going straight to e-books. I wonder if editors will be glad for the decrease in their slush piles. Or will they lament a really good book they never had the chance to buy?
I give a lot of credit to editors for improving my own writing skills (and I’m still learning!). I’ve learned so much by submitting, rejections, rewriting and editorial letters. I was very impatient when I first started writing. I thought everything I wrote was ready to sell. I was told that self-publishing (except for niche books) was not for serious writers. But if I were starting out now, I suspect I would skip the rejections and go straight to e-publishing. Why not? It’s quick and easy. Writers don’t need to prove their skills to get published; only have knowledge of formatting. Ultimately, though, the book will have to compete for readers.
I’m hoping traditional publishers keep publishing a variety of formats. I’ve been lucky to publish with some amazing publishers. My readers can choose between paper or electronic formats of my books. Personally, I prefer the touch of paper books and I’ll continue to buy hardback and paper books for my girl series collection. Someone needs to keep all these amazing books in one place.
As I heard at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference, the book is a perfect device. No batteries or cords necessary. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try out e-books. If I’m going on a trip and need to pack light, I’ll download a book to my I-Pad. But if I end up really loving that book, I’ll buy a paper copy to keep.