Traffic, Letters, and Jonathan Franzen

I’m not sure why I suddenly got an onslaught of visitors to the site yesterday. I actually had to check Google News to make sure I hadn’t accidentally married a Kardashian. But whatever the reason, welcome!

I thought this would be a good time to explain what you’ll find here. You’re reading the blog, which I’ve kept since 1996 (we called them “online journals” back then and did all of the HTML by hand at 1 in the morning). I try to update the blog or my web magazine Professor Barnhardt’s Journal every day in some way, but I don’t know if I can do that any longer now that PBJ has ended. We’ll see!

PBJ is the web mag I ran from 2002 until last week. It has a lot of great stuff in the archives (check the really old stuff first, before it became more blog-like). Book, with Words and Pages is the book of essays I published in 2003. It’s now a web site where you can read the contents for free.

I’ve also started a monthly print letter called (appropriately enough), The Letter. It’s a monthly letter I type up and send out via snail mail, with essays and other things you can’t find at this web site. You can purchase it by clicking the donate button on the right. It’s $12.00 a year. (And to everyone who has already bought a subscription, the first issue is coming. It will start in February – I’m still putting the finishing touches on the design).

For everything else, you can check out the “About” link above. And thanks for visiting!

So I was reading the comments that Jonathan Franzen made about e-books. I get what he’s saying, as I’m someone who loves the feel of books too and hopes they never, ever go away (as objects, paper books and e-books just aren’t the same). But I also think he’s someone who truly doesn’t understand what e-books and e-readers are or he does but wants to position himself in way that makes him some contrarian or hip or “more authentic to the written word.” Or something.

As a reader, it’s great to have so many words at my fingertips. As a writer, e-books (and the web in general) are an incredible help to my career. So it’s a good situation for everyone. When Franzen talks about spilling water on his regular paper book and it’s still OK, that’s cute and all, but 1.) the e-reader will probably still be OK, unless you dropped it in the tub, and 2.) the good thing about e-books is that you’re going to have another copy of the book on another device (your computer, smart phone, another e-reader) or in the cloud (Amazon, iTunes, etc). You don’t lose the actual book itself. I get the sense Franzen doesn’t understand the technology.

Do I want to see “real” books go away for ever? No (you’re talking to a guy who is actually snail-mailing out a typed letter in a stamped envelope every month). I want to live in a world where we still have bookstores and libraries but we also have 300 books on a little thing we carry in our pockets, and as a writer I like having my words available in many different places. If in my lifetime paper books go away and we only have e-books, then that would be a sad thing, but that won’t happen for so many years from now no one reading this is going to have to worry about it.

But Franzen’s comments weren’t the silliest thing I saw online yesterday. This was.

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