Borders and Babel

The above is a picture of the Borders store near my office. The ground floor of the place looks like a tornado has ripped through it, the basement is as you see above – empty shelves (also for sale, contact our administrator!) and garish posters and people creeping around like they’re raiding a tomb.

No doubt the world of publishing is changing, and the delivery method of bookification is undergoing a radical shift. I’ve had a few conversations with local indies, and they seem to be faring better than the chains, probably owing to customer loyalty and the intimacy shopping at a smaller store can bring. Minds out of the gutter peoples, I’m not talking about a Happy Ending™ with every purchase. It’s kinda like going to your local bar and ordering “the usual”.  I used to have a local where I could just walk up to the bar and the dude behind it would pour me a Kilkenny without me even asking, and then he’d take me out the back and….

Anyways, I digress…

Dymocks (our other big chain down here) is still kicking, and wandering past the rows of DVDs and CDs in my dishevelled Borders, I couldn’t help but think they kinda dropped the ball. I’m unsure how they thought they were going to compete with big music/DVD chains, particularly given the shrinking nature of those markets due to online selling/piracy. But the point of all this is, as we seem to move closer towards an age of electronic delivery and consumption, and the notion of a bookshelf becomes more antiquated, I start to feel like a really old bastard.

See, I like BOOKS. I like the feel of them, the smell of them. I like collecting them, looking at them on my shelves. I like admiring the cover art, having the ability to read without a recharger or getting told by the stewardess “excuse me sir, all electronic devices must now be switched off, didn’t you know our nav’ systems are so crappy a fucking KINDLE can make us drop out of the sky”.

One of my fondest memories of being a kid was when my mother used to drop me off at a newsagent (kinda like a newsstand/bookstore all in one) in the mall while she did the grocery shopping. I would’ve been maybe ten at the time. I used to hunker down in the book aisle, pick a Stephen King book off the shelf, flip through ‘til I found a “good bit” and lose myself for an hour. And I kinda wonder how kids are going to get into books in an age where they only exist as files on a computer. Or what happens when those computers stop working. When we convert all our information into a format that can’t be interpreted without a secondary device(you only need your eyes to read a book) and set ourselves up for another Babel event.

Actually, that sounds like a neat idea for a book…

As I may have already mentioned, I’ve hooked up with a group of debut authors with dystopian/SF/F themes. We’ll be blogging, throwing spitballs and generally making fools of ourselves here. My first post is tomorrow. Or tonight. Depending in which part of the world you live. So yes, enjoy.

In STORMDANCER news, I’ve almost finished round 2 of edits. Everything is pretty much done, save one additional chapter I’ve been asked to write (yes, I’m still being asked for MOAARR). Still not sure how I’m going to make that one work, or even if we need it, or whether this calls for an appearance of Mr Primadonna.

It’s all feeling really good. Parts of it still give me goosebumps, and I must have read them 2184 times by now.

Can’t wait for y’all to see it. 🙂

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About Misterkristoff

New York Times and Internationally Bestselling SciFi/Fantasy author, and master of drunken karaoke-fu. View all posts by Misterkristoff

8 responses to “Borders and Babel

  • RB

    First, congratulations on all the exciting goose-pimply STORMDANCER news! I seriously can’t wait to read your book. Seriously. I’m not a fan of the genre but this sounds like it could change my mind since just reading your blog is entertaining.

    Secondly, about books/bookstores. I am in the ‘feeling like a really old bastard’ category with you. I LOVE actual—hold them in your hands and dog ear the pages and fall asleep with it open on your chest–BOOKS. I too love their smell. And the soft shhh sound they make when I turn the pages in a quiet room, and being able to write notes in the margins when something strikes me as “notable”, and the rush of righteous satisfaction I feel from being able to throw one I really don’t like across the room without ending up a few hundred bucks in the hole for it. What I love most is that all my senses are engaged in the process, from choosing a book to finishing it and having the pleasure of catching a glimpse of a great one on my shelves. Tangible books are an integral part of a reading experience that doesn’t only involve my eyes moving across a screen, there’s a whole world of tactile pleasure gained from a “hold in your hands” read. When’s the last time anybody used a Kindle for a coaster? I get the warm fuzzies seeing the coffee rings I left staining the back of a cheap discount store soft-cover….

    I still regularly browse bookstores even though most of my favorite indies have gone under in the last few years. There are still a few steadfast holdouts staying afloat and I pour my cash into them with purchases whenever I can. Walking the aisles and trailing my fingertips over the spines as I browse for a new read is nothing like going to Amazon and performing a “search”. So, while the eBook revolution continues to plant its stakes in the book-loving hearts of consumers, I still sit behind my lonely fortress (any others ready to guard a wall are free to join me) and keep the faith for good ol’ fashioned bound books. So I am 100% with you on this point, man. 100%.

    • misterkristoff

      Thanks for the congrats 🙂

      Yeah, I’m with you 100% on the sensory experience thing. My wife is a vorcious reader, and I bought her a Kindle for her birthday and she LURRRRVES it, but I gave it a shot and just couldn’t get into it. I think it’s a combo of the tactile/sensory experience and and the bsessive/compulsive in me. I like collecting stuff. I still buy CDs for the same reason – and yeah, i realize I’m probably one of the only people left alive who doesn’t buy off iTunes.

      Plus, it’s not liek you can get an author/band you love to sign your reader/iphone 😛

      • Avid

        No matter how much I luurve the Kindle (and I do – thank you sweetie) I can’t kick my real book habit. I will continue to buy and borrow real books. I consider the Kindle a supplement to my book collection, not a replacement.

  • galactus

    I’m not going to get into what the australian publishing industry is doing to the retail bookstores in australia.

    But I will tell you that the padawan and princess both have numerous books that they take to bed. Padawan has about eight books in the bed bunk he’s reading and rereading right now. Every night it’s the same request from both of them “Can we read in bed!”. Kids will always love books as long as you nuture them and set the example.

    • misterkristoff

      Well, that’s a really encouraging thought. I wonder how many kids their age are like them, though?

      • biddies mum

        mine are younger than galactus’ kids and they take their books to bed too, and quite often we’ll sit for an hour or two a day reading. yesterday it was the dr suess collection. my 2.5 year old loves “the lorax”, and can recite “the zax” – he’s told me to stop reading so he can tell me the story!

        i hope that ink on paper is never wholly replaced

  • Matt

    I can relate to your ‘kid in a bookstore’ scenario. I think a lifelong appreciation of books, and love of reading and starts with kids.

    Having worked in secondary education a few years, recent (the last decade or so)changes in learning, comprehension and methods of research are staggering.

    Attention spans get shorter and shorter as children are bombarded with all manner of data. Attendance at school libraries is in severe decline, I have seen lending of books drop by up tp 80%, it’s kind of scary.

    These days kids think ‘research’ is a selection of cunningly applied Google keywords.

    So yeah, a lot of us love the look and feel of the ‘real’ thing… but I think bookstores, libraries and books as educational tools – are in massive decline.

    Freedom is slavery.

    • misterkristoff

      80%, goddamn, that’s fkn terrifying.

      Of course, our grandparents said the same thing about Elvis Presley, so who the hell knows. Maybe it’s the fate of the old to always fear the young, no matter what they’re doing or how they’re doing it. it’d be interesting to see whether children are reading less in total, or simply reading less books and more in the online space.

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