Monday, May 28, 2012

"Dead Trees?" Technically, yeah, but c'mon....

Dead trees.
I love electronic publishing.  I have found friends, and readers, on continents I may never visit.  I have found fans for my work in other countries, such as England, India, Australia, Germany, Russia, Italy, Sri Lanka and others.
And I pump my fist in a "Right on!"when the stars of the self-publishing firmament hold forth, the Joe Konraths, the Kris Ruschs, the Dean Wesley Smiths, and so forth.
And yet...
DEAD TREES!
Ack!  There it is again! 
The insult to all paper books that dare to continue to exist in this world.  DEAD TREES. 

Why does the phrase irk me so much?
Perhaps because of the sheer sneering un-necessaryness of it.
And because it reminds me of the SCRAP OF CLOTH argument from an earlier era.
Back in the late 1980s, there was a tempest-in-a-teapot over flag burning.  In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that a guy who had been arrested for burning the American flag outside the Republican convention in 1984 (these cases take longer to work their way through the system in real life than they do in t.v. dramas) had been engaging in free speech.

Then politicians sanctimoniously got into the act.
They tried several times to pass an amendment to the U. S. Constitution banning flag burning.  (The Supreme Court ruled that the arrest of the guy in 1984 had been unconstitutional, as it violated first amendment freedom of speech.  If the amendment was part of the constitution, that little inconvenience would be taken care of).
The hypocrisy of these politicians, who were letting any number of important problems fester for lack of attention, was disgusting.
But, they drew a counter-reaction from the liberal spectrum of American opinion which was, in some ways, even more revolting.
Thus began the "scrap of cloth."
Numerous prominent people began talking about how the American flag was just a "scrap of cloth," and that people should not be prosecuted for burning it.  Scrap of cloth this, scrap of cloth that.
Hey!
That's my flag, man!

I would never burn the American flag. But I don't believe that attempts to ban flag desecration are just.
I was personally disgusted by the flag burners.  But prosecuting them for visually expressing their opinion would do genuine harm to America. 

If it was constitutionally protected, the nutty conservatives wanted to simply amend the constitution to lessen free speech protection.
Meanwhile, the nutty liberals responded by talking about a scrap of cloth. 
That was a terrible ploy, guys.  Basically, you were saying that the flag wasn't worth anything as a symbol.
Oh yes it was.  And is.
So now we come to the Dead Trees.
I love the smell of books.  I love the feel of paper.  I love old covers with outdated covers (like bloated lettering and bad hair in book covers from the 1970s).
But I also love what electronic distribution has done for me, both as a reader and as a writer.
I love that I can read books that are out of copyright for free.  I love the ability to research (my undergrad years would have been a hell of a lot easier if the internet hadn't been in protean form back then!).
And, I love having fans, and new friends, from all over the world.
So, I am for the electronic world.  And I know it will only continue to grow and grow as the devices get easier on the eyes, cheaper, and more durable.
But please don't refer to my old books as dead trees.
Or … well, actually go ahead. 

After all, I do believe in freedom of speech.

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