Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kindling: Amazon.com axes the paper back version of NewLits3


A sign of the times, no doubt, but one I feel a bit disappointed about.

We are huge fans of amazon.com. As we've often commented, it bailed us out so many times after we moved to Mexico and needed a way to get books and other items we had trouble getting locally. And we have loved having our books available on Amazon. We've often been told how Amazon came through for courses using our books when university book stores were under-stocked. Within a day or two a copy can be had pretty well anywhere in North America. And the North American market happens to be the best market for books we write.

So after the new edition of New Literacies was published several weeks back I was looking to see when it popped up on Amazon.com. It was available for pre-order, and it was quickly available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.ca, as well as Amazon.de and Amazon.jp. But nothing showed on Amazon.com apart from the first and second editions of the book.

Then, last week, the Kindle edition showed up, and I started to wonder if Amazon.com was only going to cater to the e-reading public. This concern was pretty much borne out today when a friend and colleague said Amazon.com had cancelled her order and suggested she get the Kindle edition.

Apart from thinking they are somewhat over-rated, I have nothing against tablets -- I own one and, to be sure, we have ordered a Kindle Fire. I even use the e-reader function when I'm on the run and don't want to have to carry books around. I'll happily enough read a novel and gloss a report on an e-reader. But when it comes to engaging with academic texts I prefer to have a hard copy version available -- preferably one I can annotate and stick post its on and so on: i.e., things that help me wrestle with arguments.

More than this, when I read academic books I read them they way I write them -- which always involves a lot of hard copy. For sure, there are periods when I can just sit at the keyboard and generate text. But very often there are points in the argument when I have to leave the screen and "work stuff through" away from the pixels. I don't think I'm alone in this.

It's not that I like the feel of a book in my hands, or the smell of them, or other such pleasures that are often mentioned. Rather, my ways of reading, just as with writing, are often abetted by paper and pen. I hugely admire anyone who can get all there is from a text straight off the screen, and who can annotate as they want on screen. But I have to say that when I am writing my mental conception of the audience is of people who will read somewhat the way I do, and who will want to worry away at passages here and there in ways I don't readily associate with purely on screen reading. I certainly don't want to legislate for how others read, and I am very happy for anything I write to be available in digital formats. That's great. But I like the option of hard copy as well -- with all due apologies to the trees.

Of course, if anyone wants a hard copy version of the book they can go to Barnes and Noble or order a copy through a local (university) book store. But that is not the same as also having the option available of one-click buying and waiting a day or so for the post.

In the wider scheme of things this is an over-indulgent concern, no doubt. But I guess that in the final analysis if I had thought the book would only be published in digital format I almost certainly would not have got down with Michele and written it. It is, of course, readily enough available as a paper back; just not on Amazon.com.

But Amazon.com is my favourite port of e-commerce call, and it just won't be the same if the paper version of a book we poured our guts into is not available there.

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