So the other day my colleagues at the Literary Ventures Fund and I were on a three-way, three-city conference call when one of them mentioned that he took a train ride from NYC to Princeton the day before to attend a meeting. He said that he spent much of the time on his iPhone reading Twitter thoughts with links from a savvy and opinionated independent publisher we all knew on a variety of topics. Another colleague sighed and said “It used to be that people used train rides to read books.”
Well, exactly. If you’ve followed this blog you know the train/Twitter/iphone/book collisions go right to the heart of what we discuss and debate and, one hopes, illuminate, all the time.
And as you may know, I don’t have a dog in this fight. On one hand I can argue “What’s wrong with a book?” They are pretty portable. But in the last few months I have spent a lot of time waiting for people who had various appointments or in transit and it would have been useful to have something that could deliver some choices (books, periodicals, work files etc). I tend to dive into books – the traditional kind you hold in your hands -- when I have extended down time but this was waiting room down time, parking lot down time. So I can make a case for using fragmented time in a fragmented way: tootling around electronically. Though I also can make the case for daydreaming or just staring off into space, too.
Somehow I suspect that you knew this was leading to the T-word: Twitter. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Twitterville lately, mostly to see how the publishing, literary, author, reader world interacts on it and with it. Those 140-character-or-fewer blasts can be painful (“I just read the first chapter of so-and-so’s new book and it stinks”); ultra timely (this week’s Amazon ranking implosion, for example); or, among other things, promotional (read this book, read it now, here’s the link). But I salute any delivery system that supports the discussion of books and reading and gives authors another channel for their words and messages. As I write this, emails about another round of layoffs at Publishers Weekly are piling up.