On Monday- or Wednesday, I can’t remember but it’s not that important- Leah, who is an aspiring author, asked if I was going to the LTUE Symposium/Convention in Provo this weekend. After some clarification and some googling I found that she was referring to a fantasy and science fiction writers convention held at Utah Valley University, and remembering how I was an aspiring copyeditor only last year I decided I would indeed join her for Saturday.
I went to a few good panels and a couple of disappointing ones, but the best panel was entitled “Free Books Are Worth Every Penny” presented by Tracy and Laura Hickman. Accomplished author/editor team and very engaging, the information they offered on the new publishing paradigm was more than worth every penny of the registration fee for the whole day. It gave me faith that my time spent learning how to copyedit was not wasted, as I was beginning to think. There is a place for me to contribute to the genre I enjoy. This rekindling of hope was great in itself, but when they pointed out the shift from printed books and bookstores to eBooks and Amazon, I felt as though thousands of years of the printed word was an era coming to a close.
Of course, books hold stories and information. As far as information, we can get most of it from the internet, or at least everyone I can think of stops there first. For stories, it’s television, movies, video games or eBooks. We get through the story and feel entertained, but it’s not long before that story and the journey it was and the lessons we learned fade out and we look for the next bit of entertainment.
Years ago I visited my second cousin in London and I remember observing and happily commenting on her bookshelf. It seems as though she felt it was taking up more space than she could spare for it and I remember her saying something to the effect that the only reason to have books on display was to be boastful of how much one reads. At the time, I couldn’t think of anything sensible to say to oppose that, but I remember feeling that having books around is somehow very justified.
Tracy Hickman, in this panel, quoted an associate of his for us. It was a point he also used recently when speaking with the marketing team for one of his books. Even in the days of eBooks and the internet, in the decline of brick and mortar bookshops and the growing demand for instant gratification with the shopping experience, a book is the souvenir of the experience. Why would someone download an eBook and then want a hard copy? Because they want to remember the experience and the story and the lessons the characters brought them, and looking up at one’s bookshelf and just seeing that title brings back all of those things. Knowing it will never disappear in an electronic snafu is reassuring. Knowing it will be there, knowing I can hold it in my hands and re-experience it, or share it with friends or progeny, and knowing that in my care the story will never be completely lost…
That’s why I buy the book. That’s why I set it on the shelf for all to see, especially me, along with photos and souvenirs from the places I was able to bring my body to.