‘What’s that noise, Mummy?’my daughter said to me this morning while I was pushing her on the swing.
‘I don’t know, I can’t hear anything,’ was my response.
To which she solemnly replied, ‘I think it’s my brain.’
Obviously at this point I cracked up laughing. And then just had to ask, ‘What does it sound like?’
‘It’s squeaking!’ she shrieked, also laughing by now. ‘My brain’s squeaking!’
Okay, funny as that may be, I know just how she feels. My brain is definitely squeaking at the moment with words like Kindle and Book Depository and Angus and Robertson and receivership and that awful statistic I posted on my Facebook page last week about the average sales of a debut Australian novel being 919 copies.
What the hell am I doing to myself? What business do I have trying to be a writer?
A Kindle edition of What is Left Over, After was launched a couple of weeks ago. It’s one of the first 2 titles chosen by my publisher to be issued in a Kindle edition. The publisher asked me to provide a comment on how I felt about this for their media release. And I sat and stared at a blank email for half an hour. Because I’ve never even seen a Kindle in the flesh (in the plastic? I don’t even know what it’s made of) so I don’t really know how I feel about being Kindle-available.
Obviously I want to sell as many books as I can to as many readers as possible so part of me thinks it’s terrific. The other part of me has difficulty imagining myself sitting down with an e-reader and curling up with my electronically inked words. I am a person who loves a book with pages. But of course not everyone is the same as me.
And then there’s the Book Depository phenomenon. Cheap books, free postage. I’ve been to lots of book clubs over the past couple of months to talk about What is Left Over, After and many of these clubs are buying their books through Book Depository. I understand why they’re doing this – they can save money and who doesn’t want o do that?
But I also wonder whether it is only since the advent of Amazon and Book Depository that people have begun to think books are expensive?
Part of me doesn’t quite agree with the ‘books are so expensive in Australia’ argument. A book costs about $27.95. A book will take you many hours to read, you can pick it up and put it down and read it when you choose, you can re-read it again later. A night at the movies might cost slightly less but it’s over in a couple of hours. No one complains as vigorously about the price of movies. So why are books seen as less worthy of their price? Is it just because there is suddenly a way to get books cheaper via Book Depository that books now seem expensive?
A good book is, to me, like a piece of art. It prompts contemplation in the same way that a work of art does, it speaks to me about the greater puzzle of what it means to be human and I close the covers feeling richer and somewhat blessed that I can own a piece of art for the bargain price of $27.95.
What do you think? Is a book a work or art? Or have books become disposable, a read-it-once, read-it-quick, thus get-it-cheap object?