― Jane Smiley, Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel
What draws us to read (or not read) certain books. The covers used to entice me at times, but more times than not they turned me away. I like a man's body as much as the next gal, but a half naked, heavily muscled, long haired guy with sweat glistening off of those many muscles, does not scream great storyline. Does the New York Times top ten make up my library? I must confess, I generally read very few of those that appear on that list. They don't seem to find those lesser known authors who capture me on page one. I have my favorite reviewers, of course, and that is generally a good starting point for me, but I realized recently that Amazon's samples help me more than anything else. I can read as many first chapters as I want, and I get to decide, cost free, which books capture my fancy. It is not surprising that Amazon was able, over a few years time, to single handedly change the way we purchase books. I do understand the publishers' frustration, but Amazon's ability to cater to the consumer has changed the world of book buying forever.
Can you imagine what our great grandparents would have thought if they had a peek at the world of Amazon and Apple. Would they have traded their lives of hand washing clothes and daily milk deliveries for washing machines and supermarkets? At first thought one would think they would have jumped at the chance, but on further reflection I am not so sure. In those days families spent evenings reading together and eventually gathered around the radio, rather than either "out" for the night or huddled around individual computers in individual rooms. I do realize that without convenience food moms spent much longer cooking a meal, but families gathered together around that meal every night.
Even better, in those days Michael would have lived seven or eight blocks from me, not seven or eight states away. Hmmm...I guess I am just missing my boy today, because even with all that "togetherness" I know that those days were far from ideal. After all, people had so much less access to books.
Access to books, after all, is what it is all about to those of us who would rather read than eat, and access to books is exactly what Apple and Amazon amped up for us all. So when you start getting the feeling that they have become too powerful or too pushy, just remember that thanks to them, a library of books is just a click away. Which reminds me, Lisa Jackson's newest book, Close to Home, comes out today. I think I will go click away and start reading.