Friday, April 6, 2012

Let's just burn the books, why don't we?


I am a minimalist.

I will eschew purchasing anything new, and this includes books. I will tout the wonders of public libraries, and then go write an e-book that must be purchased to be read because it's not available at the public library. In that book, I'll tell people how important it is that we use less so that those who are poor can have more.

In that book I'll tell you how to live an incredibly happy life with no financial cushion and only a poverty-level salary. And then I'll charge two hours' minimum wage for the privilege of reading my e-book. That e-book, by the way, doesn't contain anything that anyone else hasn't said before (though I'm saying it in a different way, which has its merits.) But I'll sell my book about avoiding the pitfalls of marketing and our spend-spend-spend society by marketing it as something new, and then telling people they should buy it.

I will quit my current job and write satire for a living because it's my dream.

Okay, maybe not. That's probably a good thing since the only part of satire I'm good at is offending people.

We're minimalists. But we're also human and we live in a capitalist society. There are minimum amounts of money needed to live. I understand why many minimalists have decided to write e-books for profit. Self-publishing avoids the corporate midldeman and empowers the individual.

E-books are becoming incredibly popular. Meanwhile, public libraries in the U.S. continue to lose funding. Unlike regular books which can be purchased individually, e-books are purchased by libraries as part of expensive subscription programs, which many libraries can't afford or soon won't be able to.

E-books have the potential to disseminate information farther than traditional books. While authors do need to make a living, many e-books and the information contained in them are effectively off-limits to those who aren't well-off financially. In the past, if you wanted a book but were poor you could go into the public library and borrow the book for free. And if the library didn't have it? You could get the book via interlibrary loan or ILL, also for free.

 'Access to information shall not be abridged' - that's the first article of the constitution of a futuristic society in Lois McMaster Bujold's award-winning sci-fi novel Barrayar. At this point, most e-books are out of the reach of the poor. The poor can't afford expensive e-books and neither can libraries. Minimalism shouldn't be for the rich.

So next time we tout living simply so that others may simply live, let's make sure that those who have to simply live can afford to benefit from what we've learned and have written.

And now back to your regularly scheduled anti-hoarding.


  1. I have a big problem with over-priced e-books too. Especially "minimalism" e-books. It was such a big hole in logic for me that I had to quit calling myself an e-book. (That, and I love my physical books too much, lol.) But I have never thought about the trouble this might cause libraries. As someone who is planning to self-publish fiction in the near future this makes me consider ordering a stock of physical books from to make available to libraries that might want them. Thanks for this new perspective!

    1. It also wouldn't hurt to talk to the librarians in advance and find out if they're interested in your book, and if you could do a reading. Self-published books can get overlooked when they end up in librarians' inboxes. Make a personal appearance and you'll have a better chance of making it into the collection. Good luck!

  2. Terrific. I loved this post. I love your blog and I am interested in your ideas. Great post !

    1. Thank you! I am enjoying yours as well. Kudos on your daily posts!

  3. Yes, I saw where a publishing house wants to charge libraries more for ebooks, their logic being the libraries needn't buy so many "copies". Well, of course, they neglect to mention how much cheaper it is to "publish" an ebook. Seriously! Sheesh.
    Though in theory I like ebooks, I cannot give up the feeling of reading a "real" book, as well as the opportunity to physically pass it on to a loved one when I am done reading....
    Nice, provocative post.

  4. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! This drives me insane! I'm pretty sure self-publishing and e-book and selling classes from online "experts" is the new fad. I think people should follow their passions, but just because you CAN publish something, doesn't mean you should or are ready too. All of the self-pub'd ebooks I've read either contained regurgitated information from the author's blog, contained numerous grammatical errors, was too short, etc. I really wish that those who choose to self-publish at least hire a professional editor (no, not that blogger pal who has a big following). But I guess everyone wants their 15 minutes...ugh!

    P.S. Been trying to comment FOREVER, but realized it never went through because I turned off cookies or something.

    1. no worries, I'm a million years behind replying to comments on my blog and commenting on yours! Gosh, I almost think you could capitalize on the insanity by using your copyediting skills to help people improve the sea of self-published e-books out there. To me that's an honorable way of making money with e-books. I'm getting really tired of the minimalist bloggers who are clearly in it for the money.


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