Sunday, May 23, 2010

Underground Resistance

With the technological winds of change a-blowing so stiffly, there’s little point in resisting the inevitable. Yes, I know, e-books and e-reading contraptions are here to stay, and will become even more prevalent in the coming days and years. They are even potentially beneficial for authors. After all, readers are notorious for sharing books with their family and friends, or selling them used on Amazon for a penny, which equals sales not made and royalties not earned. And the passing around of iPads and such isn’t very likely, or even practical. Nevertheless, I am happy to report that physical books, newspapers, and magazines maintain a strong pulse—on New York City’s subways at least.

While riding the Number 1 train into Manhattan—and then back to the Bronx—several days ago, I was heartened to observe New Yorkers of all stripes poring over the genuine articles: books, newspapers, and magazines. As I scanned the diverse group of riders, I didn’t spy one e-reader amidst the subway melting pot.

The impassioned ravings of a former publishing bigwig about the industry's death rattle are the wind beneath the wings of this particular scribbling. This fellow confidently predicts that everyone will have an iPad, or an equivalent reading device, in a mere few years time. It is true that most subway riders are members in good standing of the hoi polloi. By and large they are not catching business red-eyes, vacationing in Portofino, Italy, and carrying Zagat’s dining guides in their fanny packs. But the sprawling subway set reads, too, and still purchases tangible objects with words on them that one can touch, smell, and dog-ear.

Take it from this subway rider, who has no plans—and no plans to make plans—to buy an e-reader anytime soon, books and newspapers have not, as of yet, been swallowed whole by that voracious black hole and point of no return hovering in the recesses of Publishing Land. And that’s a good thing. As far as the sweeping and inexorable technological changes in this trade, my personal posture as a writer is—to parrot a Valley Girl—“What-EVER!”

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