So at first I'm all "Gurrrrrllll..."
But then I realize what she's saying: She doesn't have a computer.
What? What do you mean, "no computer?" How do you
email breathe? I was literally speechless for a second.
"Do you have a local library?" I asked. She harrumphed.
She went on to express frustration that her writing had to be "shoved into a computer" in order to get it looked at. I mumbled something about efficiency (which is actually a totally foreign concept to me) until she hung up. Not my finest phone moment.
My first instinct was to laugh. But this actually brings us to a crux of the current book world.
On a small scale, for agencies, the electronic vs hard copy debate is about equality. Email queries are preferred: they make no waste paper and, because agents are already
addicted to looking at their email, they get answered faster. But we've found some good stuff in the hard copy queries; they shouldn't be frowned upon.
More broadly, tension between old and new, print and electronic, is palpable among a lot of readers. You know, the ones who don't want to shift to ebooks because they "like how the pages smell." Now, this is not me (I have no heart, so...). But it is a lot of other people.
Publishing is one of the oldest industries in the world. It's not quick to change. It's not on the vanguard of anything--except maybe cultural trends. We sort of like it that way. Yet this post, by a publishing person is tagged "technology." And it's on the interwebz!!
Publishing's next chapter is about new and old finally having to come to terms. I've made light, in the past, of the tendency to call digital initiatives "a brave new world." But that's actually not fair. It's reductive to scoff at that.
People who express discomfort and apprehension about publishing+tech aren't really being Luddites. What they're really reacting to is a very real fear that something essential to books, reading, and the noble art of publishing books, of promoting art and artists, will be lost. Or at least irrevocably changed. For the first time in hundreds of years.
And that's nothing to scoff at.
The reality is that books are going to change, maybe dramatically. The way people write and the expectations they have for their publishing journey will change. Readers' expectations will change (what do you mean, Jonathan Safran Foer, that I can't read TREE OF CODES on my KINDLE?!).
I think we should all be aware that, as exciting as all of this digital stuff is, print books have been moving us, deeply, for nearly six hundred years. That matters. It always will.