Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Give Me Google Books

Count me in as someone desperately hoping the Sony Reader will take off, or that Google will come up with some I-tunes-like application for books. The technology is there. Forward thinking book publishers are including "Google ready digital files" in their contracts for books about to go to print. I'm ready for it.

It wasn't something that really made too much sense to me in the past. I was dimly aware of the debates surrounding digital books, but didn't really care too much about them. I'm a book lover of the worst kind--fiction--which means I'm something of a luddite, really. And then I found myself in California for the past two months caring for some family members with health problems they didn't deserve to have. I had a new idea for a new novel and was jonesing for research material. The books I'd collected over the years in anticipation of this project were in New York. The new books I'd yet to locate were . . . all over the US. I mean, I could order them via Amazon or Abebooks, but it was going to take far more money than a broke writer has to get them into my hands immediately. And would the family members suddenly take a turn for the better, allowing me to go home earlier than expected--and before the ordered books arrived--or not? What to do.

Google Books had previews. I could read pages 8-10, then 15-19, then 22-23 of one book before the "preview" dropped off. Trust me. If there had been an option to pay with a credit card to read the entire thing and download it and print it, I would have. Some of the books even were willing to show off their bibliographies, which meant I could, as we were all taught to do in school, learn about other books I was going to need to read. And locate. I was feeling isolated. I'm from a small town and the library has slim pickings. I suppose I could have applied for a library card and ventured up to San Francisco, but it was starting to bother me that to do anything at home, I had to burn that much gasoline. Even buying a bunch of bananas required a car trip, which it never does in New York. I started to understand how it is that living in a city can actually make you more Green than living in the country.

My guess is that once again it will be in some area other than literary fiction that the book-not-as-object will be released. Scholarly books and articles seem like a good place to start. And I know that there are writers out there who are trying. In the meantime, I will limp along like everyone else, trying to get my hands on books that I need. I ended up paying for speedy delivery for one tome. My fiance brought me another. And the rest of the time, I knitted and watched Japanese dramas (which you can get on the internet) and episodes of Heroes via . . . i-tunes.

I suppose it will happen eventually, but it will happen very, very slowly.

And I'll probably never switch over, which means I'll become obsolete, which I suppose happens to everyone eventually.
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