Analog + Digital, Revisited

I’m still frustrated with how book buying works.

Totally randomly, we ended up watching the Tom Wolfe documentary on TV Friday night.  It was really great — incredible to get a behind-the-scenes look at how he operates.  He is clearly a master of the interview and a master researcher.  He has an incredible way of making people feel comfortable and getting people to like him and talk to him.  Nearly every one of the folks from Miami he worked with in preparing his new book spoke glowingly of him.   And it was great to get a peek into how he learns a place — from the small details of a house or neighborhood, to the larger political & social currents.

Anyway, it was cool.   You can catch the trailer here:

I’ve actually never read any of his books, if you can believe that (though I obv know many of the stories). And after seeing this, I realized I wanted to read all of them. A great project to embark on. So, now what? What do I buy? Kindle/ebook or hardcover?

I feel so stuck, because I love a physical library — even just seeing the spines of books I’ve read or want to read is meaningful.  But I also like being able to read digitally (especially because I travel a lot).

Then, this morning, I realized that there is one place in my life where the analog/digital divide is handled perfectly: with the NY Times.  We have a Sunday paper subscription, which also includes digital access.  So I read the times almost every day on my phone, and then get to spread out with the actual paper on Sunday, which is so nice.  I pay about $30/mo for this, which seems like  a great deal to me.  It strikes just the right balance — I get my daily digital fix, but I also get to engage analog-ly, which is really nice given how much of my life is spent looking at a screen.  It’s so different reading a physical paper vs. reading on the phone, especially when it’s Sunday morning and you’re hanging around the house with other people.

I really want something like this for books.  I feel like I should get an e-book for free (or for a small additional fee) when I buy a paper book.  If this were the case, I’d almost certainly buy more books, and would enjoy them more.

2 comments on “Analog + Digital, Revisited”

more and more of my analog album purchases come with an immediate digital download. i loved it the first time it happened, and immediately thought ‘of course, this makes sense.’ this is usually through Bandcamp, or direct from the artists.

these days i can get an mp3-only album for $3-$4 less than the physical copy. but since i still admire the connection between album art and the music, plus reading through liner notes, i almost always opt for paying the extra loot for a hard copy of the album. i bought two CDs from the same independent label yesterday and was surprised that there was no digital download available after my purchase was complete. it’s actually more rare for that to be the case, in my experience.

all that to say that i’m surprised that this format hasn’t already made it’s way to literature.

Yeah this makes so much sense. I was talking to a friend the other day who runs an independent record label which also sells lots of vinyl reproductions which include a free MP3 download. He was saying that the big labels try and charge twice for this — while most of the smaller outfits are cool with it.

But I am so pissed at the moment because I really don’t want to do anything until I feel better about this. I now feel like I have to make a judgment about the book before I decide what format to buy it in — digital if it’s a throwaway title, hardcover if I want to see it in my library.

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