Friday, September 23, 2011

Life In The Future and the Lessening Scarcity of Awesome Stuff

IN THE FUTURE-ture-ture...
I should use that for a thesis title.

I am, at heart, a collector.  I learned from collecting toys that whatever awesome thing I just found at Target might not be there tomorrow or, in fact, ever again. Working at a used book shop I was in an environment where the most interesting, most desirable items were effectively one of a kind. If I passed something up someone might bring another one in to sell later, but unless what I was wanting was moldy Stephen King paperbacks those chances were slim. I am therefore, to put it lightly, prone to impulse buys.

Two weeks into owning it, my Nook is already changing the way I think about collecting books. By divorcing them from their finite physical medium, by making so many of them, even (especially!) older out-of-print classics available whenever I have a wifi connection, I feel less compelled to stockpile books I may never get around to reading but which I buy just in case I do. (The Long-Suffering Roommate applauds this change.) I am content knowing that someone out there in the ether has cataloged the book and made it available, and it will continue to be available until I want it.

This isn't a 100% certain thing, I realize. Publishers can revoke ebook rights and make something no longer available, and if that original book was DRMed it effectively kills it. A paper book, once out of print, is still a physical thing that can be obtained, but a DRMed ebook is not. Though I'm usually an early adopter, that fact kept me wary of the format for a long time. A non-DRMed ebook, however, can be reproduced infinitely, which is excellent and amazing. I don't advocate piracy, but I do consider out of print and unavailable things a gray area. That is why I chose the Nook over the Kindle: ePub support and a more open overall attitude. I'm sure the books I buy from the B&N online store have whatever DRM the publisher insisted on including, but I can still add books that have none.

I don't plan to give up on print books anytime soon, but I already see myself showing more willingness to wait until I'm ready to read something rather than going out and immediately purchasing it the moment the idea hits me because of worries that it might not be available later. It's not all wine and roses, but being able to download E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman novels whenever I want instead of waiting for one to turn up in a used book shop is a nice perk of Living In The Future. (Though I already have the paperbacks from the 60s I picked up in high school, and those nice UK-published paperbacks that showed up at Half Price Books, and...)


  1. But how fun is it to stand in front of an Nook and shout "I HAVE ALL THE BOOKS!" followed by a crazy person laugh?

  2. Pretty damn fun, actually. Moreso in public.