Friday, January 30, 2009

Swift and Sparkly Vampire Romance, or How I Caved in and Read Twilight

Okay. So I did it. I borrowed the book, I broke down and I read it. Despite the fan-grrrls obssessed with it (which is off-putting), despite the fact that it was a teenage vampire romance (which is trite), despite the fact that it is literally EVERYWHERE in my face these days (which is annoying), I still picked it up and read it all the way through. I was really and truly prepared to hate it. But...I didn't. I actually enjoyed it. Sure, it's not perfect; there are plenty of flaws. Despite its flaws, though, it's a damn decent YA novel.

First off, it won points on the strength of the writing. Either Stephenie Meyer is a solid A writer, or she has an outstanding editor. Writing is a deal-breaker for me - if the story is good and the writing is subpar, I will think the book is awful. It's happened several times. But here...Twilight is well-written. There's a good structure, a definitive style, smooth transitions - in other words, it has good bones. It also has well-defined characters, which is another must for me. Obviously, the main characters of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen have depth, but a lot of authors would stop there. Meyer spent time slowly building the characters of the other Cullen family members - particularly Alice - and some of Bella's other friends, like Mike and Jacob Black. Finally, the story really pulls you in. The plot is good, thought out, engrossing. It's one of those books that's hard to put down once you get started.

All of that aside, there were things that irked me about the book - for one thing, Bella. I have the same complaint about her that I always had about Dawson's Creek when it was on (and all of my friends were swooning over how awesome it was) - TEENAGERS SIMPLY DO NOT ACT AND TALK THAT WAY. Bella acts as though she's 30 years old when she's supposed to be 17! Even the most mature and astute teenagers I have ever known still act like teenagers - they can't help it, it's human nature. Also, how lax BOTH of her parents seem to be about where she is, who she's with, etc. - my parents were in my business constantly when I was a teen. I'm pretty sure most other parents are the same way. Because teenagers and sneaky and generally doing things they shouldn't be, and parents remember how they acted as teenagers. A book about a kid where the parents are virtually absent from the story is just not realistic to me.

So bottom line - it wasn't my favorite book of all time. But - it surprised me. I liked it much more than I really thought I would. I liked it enough that I plan to borrow the next one and read it, too. After that - we'll see. I'm going to commit one at a time rather than committing to the whole series at once. I guess I'm still a smidge skeptical :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Paper Books vs. E-books

I had a discussion last night with my husband and his best friend, who was visiting for the weekend, about the advent of digital media. We were particularly focused on books, because music and movies and other types of media seem to be more easily adaptable, and often have already been adapted, to digital formats. I don't know that I learned anything that I didn't already know through this discussion, but it did confirm for me that I'm not the only one with mixed feelings about books moving more and more to a digital format.

I do not currently own an e-reader, but I admit that both the Sony Reader and the Amazon Kindle have piqued my interest in the last few years. I have my generation's love of tech gadgets, and I also travel several times each year on lengthy trips during which I polish off two to five books. In case you haven't had the opportunity to travel with two weeks' worth of reading material, books can be kind of heavy to tote around in your luggage! There are plenty of other good reasons for moving to digital books as well, not the least of which is the positive impact it could have on the environment - making paper is still widely a pretty toxic experience for our environment, and most inks used in printing are not something you want running off into your water supply. Shipping books and displaying them in a retail store is also not particularly eco-friendly.

I still haven't taken the plunge, though. For one thing, I really don't know if I can get past holding a machine and not a paper book, or pushing a button instead of turning a page. For another, as our friend pointed out last night, human nature seems to have an innate collector mentality that makes it hard for me to imagine my many, many bookshelves filled with beautiful books replaced with just a gadget. While I decidedly do NOT love packing up and moving all of those books, I have an equally hard time imagining buying them all again digitally. Reading e-books also makes it a lot harder to lend a book you loved to a friend for their enjoyment, or to trade a book that you read and don't really want any more for another one (as with sites like Book Mooch and Paperback Swap).

Honestly, I think all of those reasons are fairly universal concerns among book lovers, and if the publishing industry decides (as many industries before them already have) that digital is the way to go, they are going to have a serious fight on their hands to get most readers to switch over. Current e-book prices are only very slightly lower than prices for hard copy books, and that's going to have to change in order to gain more digital fans. They're going to have to make the price point of the digital format appealing enough to offset readers' other concerns. In addition, they're going to have a heck of a struggle with retail book stores, which will have nothing to sell without paper books. I suppose that, theoretically, they could package up DVDs of electronic books to sell in stores, but that just seems to defeat the best parts of digital media, which are not needing to leave your house to buy something and the immediacy of the download - you can shop in your pajamas and not have to wait for something to be shipped to you.

Primarily because of book stores, I have a hard time believing that paper books will be going away entirely any time in the near future. I do believe that my great-great-great grandchildren may live in a world when retail stores in general are a thing of the past and 99% of all types of shopping is done electronically. But until that day, retail stores are going to fight their hardest to prevent widespread digital book sales unless they themselves can get on the train to sell e-books through their websites.

So, I guess I'm curious. I want to know what other readers think about e-readers versus their beloved paper books. Do you buy digital books now? If so, what convinced you that was the way to go? If not, would you be willing to move to digital reading if the cost of e-books comes down? Or are your paper copies just too asthetically valuable to you? Are we all just Luddites, holding onto the past for no good reason?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

As Though There Weren't Enough Blogs about Books...

Hi! Welcome to Corrodentia Weekly. I recently read some advice that if you want to start a blog, you should write about something you are passionate about, something that you can commit to writing regularly about, something that has enough interest and variety and scope that you can continue writing regularly about it indefinitely. Only one topic came to mind for me.

I proudly confess to being a bookworm. Each year, I read for pleasure 75-100 novels, memoirs, nonfiction accounts, comic books/graphic novels, and whatever else takes my fancy. I also read a few magazines regularly, work a regular day job where much of my time is spent writing and editing, and I run a freelance proofreading/copyediting business on the side - which, to be honest, I started because I thought it might be a good way to get free (albeit unpolished) books to read. The order Corrodentia in the animal kingdom is the order to which booklice and other book-eating insects belong, hence the name of the blog. I almost literally devour books. My most-craved diet consists of mysteries, narrative nonfiction, memoirs, women's fiction, prize-winners (I have a special place in my heart for many Booker prize-winners), a variety of comics/graphic novels, and young adult fiction - but I will really read anything that is well-written with excellent characters and a good story. And I will not pull punches if I read something I hate.

My intent here is simply to share my bookworminess with the world. I may write about particular books or authors I love, or I may share websites or other things I come across that are likely to be of interest to fellow book lovers. And I may occasionally just rant about something random that's on my mind, but I do plan to connect everything back to books in some way, some shape, some form. The Weekly part of the blog name indicates that I really do intend to write something at least weekly here. There are times I will not be able to do it more often than that, but at least once a week, you'll hear from me.

So. Welcome. I am excited to share what I know and learn from others. I don't really believe the doom-and-gloom predictions that the death of the book is imminent, but I still plan to do what I can to interest people in books and keep them reading. I'm glad to have you along to help me out.