The humming sound of an e-book backlash grew louder last week after author Sherman Alexie appeared on The Colbert Report (which is known to be a comedy show) and described his growing fear of e-books. This came less than six months after Alexie had described e-books as elitist, which may be true, and in a moment of poor judgment described his urge to hit a woman who was seen reading a book using a well-known e-reading device.
Well, even before Bradley Robb at Fiction Matters could take on Sherman Alexie’s misunderstandings, poet Alan Kaufman compared e-books, e-readers and Google Books to the role of concentration camps in World War II. Kind of an over-the-top moment there.
But wait … there’s more.
Today, Richard Curtis profiled Nat Sobel’s campaign to “save the hardcover”. Both Curtis and Sobel are thoughtful and experienced literary agents, and there are good reasons to like hard covers, but … sequestering e-books to squeeze profits out of the hardcover version?
There are publishers who have done what Sobel argues for. It doesn’t strike me as wholly wrong, unless they see the move as a permanent bulkhead against change. Buy time for last gasps, but don’t call it a strategy.
Maybe it’s the change in weather, but it seems like this collective reaction against things “e” is a sign of the “tension” that Stewart Brand said grows worse with the introduction of each new round of digital devices. I don’t deny the tension (and I can’t avoid it), but I don’t think the genie goes back in the bottle.