Does it matter?
Does it matter to you just what is the vehicle for the words you read? How about for those you create?
That’s a hell of a question. The ex-sales & marketing weasel in me says, “No freaking way.” You fill every channel you possibly can, you give potential buyers every opportunity to buy your work. That’s Sales 101 (subject to a couple of special-case corollaries I may touch on later, but probably won’t).
The reader in me, however…
The reader in me thinks the whole argument is silly. I like books. No, honestly…I really like books. There is something infinitely satisfying about opening a physical book to read, something infinitely … err … more about reading words printed on a page. A physical book is, to me, an experience and a quality that an electronic screen simply cannot match.
Now, I have given some ground on this moral absolute — books and stories I want to savor, books and stories that matter, are purchased as books, but the less important stuff? The books I’m unsure about? The stories in my chosen genres I’m reading not out of true interest but simply to stay involved with what is current? Yeah, those get the iPad treatment. But it ain’t the same thing, not to me.
I am, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, also pretty weird…so your mileage may vary.
Okay, so that’s the personal aspect, but what about the professional one? Does it matter if a story is published in purely electronic form? Or does it have to be in print to be real?
Crap, I don’t know the answer to that one. I’ve never gone the pure-electronic route, I’ve worked and fought and bled to be in the “physical” space. Oh, I know the numbers involved in both, just as I know the pluses and minuses to both. What I don’t know is what that means to me. And, yes, I’m writing this post because I’m struggling with mediums, struggling to decide if I actually want to continue to work and fight and bleed to live in the “physical” medium (and all the entrenched east-coast bullshit that goes with it).
So, I ask again: does the medium* matter? Does it matter to you as a reader? Most importantly, does it matter to you as a writer?
*And, no, I’m not talking about the Promised Land of TV…let’s leave that to “Game of Thrones” and “The Expanse” and “Man in a High Castle” and the handful of others that have passed that particular gate…
Err…on that “special corollary” note I mentioned earlier: am I the only one who would be willing to pay, and I mean really pay, for a special version of favorite books?
In the brewing world we take special, limited release brews, stick ‘em in 22-ounce “bombers” with special labels, and charge a hefty premium for them. The counter-intuitive result is that the more is charged, the more something is (often artificially) created and billed as “limited release”, the more people are willing to pay…often to a ludicrous extent. Think $30-50, or sometimes more, for a “special” 12-ounce bottle… “Why, hello, Mr. Profit-Margin!”
Video games kinda started my professional writing (long story, not gonna go into it)…and that industry does something similar. Add a printed instruction book, a cheap printed map, and maybe an action-figure or some other form of kitsch (I still have my Fallout lunch box, thank you very much) and you can charge triple for a “Collector’s Edition.”
Well…what if some nutty-ass writer or publisher decided to do something similar? I’m not talking hardbacks, I’m not talking “signed” copies…what about a special font on handmade paper pages, and a hand-tooled leather cover, for a favorite fantasy story? Shit, a couple thousand bucks for Masters of Rome in scroll form? Yes, please.
What about a bespoke, dedicated reader (looking exactly like the Guide, of course) for Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy? Oh hell yeah…
Err, okay, nerd-rant over. Thanks for playing.