The Wilder Life is coming out as a hardcover book. I was fine with I’m Not the New Me being a trade paperback, but the idea of hardcover thrills meâ€”the smooth jacket, the photo on the back flap, the board binding and stamped spine underneath. I love how you can take off the jacket of any hardcover book, even the Snooki book, and suddenly it looks important and serious, like a Franklin Library Classic.
I keep thinking it’s sort of a weird time to be published in hardcover. I wonder these days, with the book business the way it is, and bookstores closing down, and ebooks as this bright new flickering thing.Â It’s a fun time to be working in children’s booksâ€”at work our picture books are starting to show up on tablets and we’re starting to think in terms of apps. (I wish there was a better shorthand name for a digitally enhanced picture book than “app,” as long as it’s not something inane like “blingybook” or “schmoopystory” or whatever.)
But when it comes to hardcover books in general, I wonder whether they’re destined to become more precious objects, or just clunkier ones. I wonder what it’ll all be like the next time I have a book out.
I’m definitely not one of those people who thinks ebooks are the end of the world, but I don’t quite know what they’re the beginning of, either, or even if they’re the beginning of anything different. I have an e-reader now (I don’t want to say what kind, but it has a k in its name). It’s greatâ€”nice and light and I use it mostly for reading manuscripts, and it’s already pretty life-changing in that respect. I have a few books on there, but I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet, and probably won’t until I do some traveling this spring. I suspect when I do finally start reading this way I am going to love the hell out of not having to stuff books in my carry-on and that there are certain books that I’m going to buy and read this way. But I also know that I’ll still be buying a lot of new books in hardcover for the time being. I’ll keep buying my friends’ books in old-style booky form, and books from people whose readings I go to, and books from bookstores that I want to support so that they don’t go out of business and get turned into Jimmy John’s franchises. I know most people don’t have all of those same reasons I have, but I like to think that when it comes to book formats we’re going to stay omnivorous and consume different books in different ways.
One side effect of having a book published, I’ve found, is that people tend to tell you how they bought or didn’t buy your book, whether or not you want to hear the truth. They’ll tell you that they loved reading the copy that fifteen of their friends are passing around, or that they bought it for ten cents at a library sale, or that they read it at the bookstore because they “just don’t buy books.” And yes, some of these truths make me wince a little, but it’s also true that those people found me and read me and thought enough about what they read to email me about it, or to post something on a place like Goodreads. I will try to remember that next time I hear that someone is reading a pirated PDF of my book on their internet-enabled digital watch or something (but please don’t read a pirated PDF of my book on your internet-enabled digital watch).
I don’t know what the takeaway of all this is: a book in the hand is worth something, even it’s not the kind of book that you can hold in your hand? That sounds right.Â Hearing that someone has my book on a Nook or a Kindle or a Kobo or an iPad or a Samsung tablet thingamabob or as an mp3 audio download will be humbling and wonderful, and I hope when the time comes you’ll let me know how you’re reading The Wilder Life.
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Speaking of Goodreads, there’s still time to sign up for a chance to win a free galley. (Just don’t pirate it and stick it on your watch.)