Every now and again, the ‘battle’ between ebooks and paper books rears its head again, in the columns of media outlets with slow news days on their hands. I think, as I have always thought, that it’s kind of silly, so I wrote a silly thing in response. If silly is your jam, I think you’ll enjoy it. 🙂
Ladieeees and Gentledudes! It’s here! What you’ve all been waiting for!
The stoush of the century, the showdown to beat all showdowns, the take-no-prisoners death match of all time!
In the red corner, we have the champion, the old faithful, the never-beaten, bastion of taste and quality, the protector of all that is good in storytelling, the… PRINT BOOK!
And in the blue corner, the upstart challenger, the take-on-all-comers, cheap and cheerful bringer of the apocalypse the… E-BOOK!
It’s going to be an epic battle, one for the ages, so settle in and…
The man with the microphone halted abruptly, startled into silence by a tug on his sleeve. He wouldn’t normally have been put off his stride by a trifle, but this was no normal tug. The hand on his sleeve was made of words. Or, more accurately, one word. The word ‘hand’, swelled in some places and twisted in others to make a workable finger and opposable thumb. It was supported by the word ‘arm’, elongated to cover the distance between him and the screen of the e-reader in the blue corner.
He rubbed his eyes, but the hand didn’t go away. Then he heard the voice again.
“I think you might be misrepresenting our relationship.”
There could be no mistake. The voice was coming from the e-reader.
“You can talk?”
The E-book dissolved its arm and bent a new string of words into the shape of a mouth blowing a raspberry.
“You expect us to fight, but you are surprised that we can talk? We are made of words, after all!”
The man spun around, only to find that the second voice was coming from the dignified hard-back in the red corner.
“Well, of course you can fight, you’re natural enemies,” he replied, feeling that he needed to get the conversation back on track. The fact of the conversation he refused to think about until there was a lot more vodka available.
“But why would we be?” The paper book wrinkled its spine, as if perplexed. “We’re not so different from each other. We’re both keepers of stories. Of course, we have some different characteristics. She’s lighter, for a start– ”
“She? The e-book is a she?” The man in the centre of the ring didn’t know his voice could go that high.
The paper book straightened its spine to its full height.
“What, you think all stories are male?”
“No, of course not, I just…” The man took a deep breath and forced his voice down into its normal register. “But you, surely… I mean, you’re a guy, right?”
The paper book took on a slightly rosy tint about the end papers, but answered with dignity.
“Actually, I like to think of myself as genre-queer. You can call me Pbook.”
Ebook spun together several sentences, so she could reach around and pat Pbook on the cover blurb. “I see what you did there,” she whispered. “I like the way you word, Pbook.”
“But – look!” The man pulled at his collar. “You can’t say she’s the same as you. Look at what she just said! She said she ‘liked the way you word’! That’s not even a sentence! She has no standards! She’s too cheap to have standards! She’s just not… not… not as good as you.”
PBook flapped open a cover and patted the man kindly on the arm.
“Careful, man, I think your bias is showing. It’s not that she doesn’t have standards. They’re just different from yours. She’s a bit more… let me think of a word that will work for you… hip. She’s flexible and up-to-the-minute and so probably uses a bit more modern slang. But that’s what her readers like. Some of them, anyway. And some of them like Dickens, but they want to read it on their phones. Or some of them like all sorts of books but don’t want to cut down as many trees as would be needed to satisfy their insatiable appetites. And frankly, no matter how it pains you, they all like cheap. So they go to her.”
The man sank to the floor of the ring, cradling his forehead in his hands.
“And sometimes,” Ebook added, stretching the word ‘sympathy’ to pat the man on his bowed head, “they want to hold the story and keep it and tuck it under their pillow at night and look at its pretty cover on their bookshelf in the long winter evenings.”
“Or they want to read in the bath,” Pbook offered.
“Or they want to read in the bath without using a zip-lock bag,” Ebook agreed graciously. “Or they want the author to write on it with a real pen. And then they buy a Pbook. Although sometimes,” she lowered her voice to a whisper so as not to hurt his feelings, “they keep an ebook version of the story as well.”
The man looked up, suspiciously red around the eyes.
“So what you’re saying is that you’re not really enemies?”
They both inclined towards him in what was unmistakably a nod.
“There’s no reason for people to choose between you? They can have and enjoy both?”
They nodded again, so vigorously that Pbook was in considerable danger of falling flat on its handsome face.
“But what about my fight? What am I going to tell my audience?”
They all turned to look out of the ring, but nobody looked back. The audience was too busy reading.
So, what do you think? Do you have to have a preference? Or can you be an equal opportunity reader? Tell me! Reveal your passions! I have a fight promoter who’s down a show and could do with the excitement…
Copyright © Imelda Evans 2017