Still in my pjs, buried under the covers for warmth, my second cup of coffee cooling beside me, I finished another book. The non-fiction history of book publishing in Canada wasn’t a masterpiece or a revelation, but it has me thinking about how I can keep doing what I’m doing with zines, but more.
One big lesson I’m taking is that people love to read about their home. For a long time in Canada, no one was making those books. No one thought they would sell, not in such a big country with so few people. But they did. Canadians love Canada, and we love our hometown even more.
THE PERILOUS TRADE was first published in 2003; I read the updated 2006 edition. But both of those are before a watershed year for publishing: 2007. The iPhone came out in June; the Kindle in November.
Scoffing at breathless media stories of young Japanese reading novels on their cellphones, older folks doubted that most North Americans would want to read long narrative texts on a small screen, however high-resolution. Instead, readers would continue to prefer that highly portable, sensually appealing, lovably familiar piece of technology, the book, so adaptable to bath, bed, or exercise bike.
Looking back now, after 11 years of ebook evolution, this view seems adorable and quaint at best, myopic and offensive at worst. These are the same people who, for so long, refused to publish Canadian authors and Canadian stories. It only reinforces that pit in my stomach which grew as I realised every business executive in the book was a man, and every editorial executive was a woman. We know the best decisions, but we don’t have the same power to make them.
I love paper. I have four bookshelves of books. If I had a bath in my apartment, I’d probably read there, too. But I also have an iPhone. And I read it in bed, on an exercise bike, taking the bus, and over dinner. It’s my favourite “highly portable, sensually appealing, lovably familiar piece of technology.” I don’t have to give up one for the other.
I love storytelling, in every form it might take. I’m very happy to leave this piece of Canadian history in the past, take the lessons I need, and build something those old men could never predict.