Tuesday, June 16, 2009

letter to editor- sans edit, digital books, BEA

For those of you who read the Vancouver Sun, my letter to the editor appeared in today's paper. They shortened it to fit within the usual space, so here's the long version

RE: "It's far too soon to terminate books" Ceri Radford, Page -A17, June 11, 2009

Ceri Radford's article, "It's far too soon to terminate books" (Page -A17, June 11, 2009), was in the same self-righteous tone as those prognosticators in the early 1900's who said that cars would never replace horses, or who claimed that if man was meant to fly, God would have given him wings.
Wake up. Already some of the major North American publishers at Book Expo America (BEA) seem to be abandoning books in print form. At the annual show last week in New York, I was given large format postcards at the Harper Collins booth. Each card had the image of a book cover, and on the back was the book identification number (ISBN), information about the book, the author, the publication date, and a free download of the book when I went to the publisher's web site and put in the 16 digit PIN number. The book was then downloaded into my computer, in my choice of formatting, and I had access to their new front list of books. Next year at BEA the majority of publishers say they will be giving out their new releases in this manner.
Why is this good thing? Frankly, digital books are better for the environment. Let's start with how a book is made. Trees are cut down; they are then turned into paper pulp, which means chemicals are spilled into our waterways killing fish. The pulp is turned into paper, shipped off on trucks, processed, printed and shipped off again to a warehouse, which then sends off the books. There is a very large carbon footprint in this process, while downloading a book into a computer requires no gas, little energy and no pollution. There is never extra stock to be warehoused, and there is no waste. Publishers who are worried about their profits love digital books because, let's face it, they cost very little to produce., nothing to ship or store, and there are no returns.
As for school books, I hate to agree with Governor Schwarzenegger, but he is right. California ought to move its science and math textbooks to digital books. Yes, it is going to save the state an estimated 30 million dollars, but that's missing the bigger picture. Science changes every day but science texts are only updated maybe every 15 years. Having the latest information available to students will mean that children aren't learning old and outdated science. In BC, one of the grade 9 science texts is available on a CD, while the grade 10 science text is available on line. The only thing stopping teachers here from using these texts is the lack of computers in each classroom.
So will digital readers supplant paper? Yes. For those of us who like to read in bed without waking the person next to us, a backlit Kindle is great. I don't have to wear my glasses because I can make the font bigger. It always remembers what page I'm on. It weighs less than the 10 books I take along on holidays.
As an author of children's books, I think that digital books will be good for my work. I can create an app and people can purchase my books that are out of print directly from me.

NOTE- If you want to see the books that HCI offered at BEA, go to the website:

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