Preface to the Paperback Edition

 

Dorothy Parker is quoted as saying, in regard to a book with which she had spent more time than she desired, “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly.  It should be thrown with great force.”  I believe that she would hesitated to say the same thing about the electronic version of this book, because “deleted with great force” simply doesn’t sing with the same poetry.  Perhaps a twenty-first century successor to Dorothy Parker will extend the canon of criticism with new metaphors suitable to succinctly characterize self-published electronic books, but until then I feel that is is only fair to make my work available in a format that may be critiqued in familiar terms.

There are unquestionably many virtues that paper books possess that electronic books have not yet attained.  While good books are, with some unimportant exceptions, just as enjoyable in electronic form as paper, bad paper books lend themselves to uses that electronic books simply cannot. The worse a book is, the greater the relative benefit from owning it on paper.  Paper books make good paperweights and fly swatters; their individual pages may be used as kindling, to line birdcages, or as a repository of grocery lists, to-do-lists, or other quick notes; they can be used to level uneven furniture, prop up other books, or as coasters to protect more valuable possessions from the evils of condensation.  Physical books may be casually forgotten, lost, misfiled, or loaned to a forgetful friend in such a way that one may easily and plausibly deny ever possessing them.  In the limiting case, the simple joy of feeding the collected works of Dan Brown through a paper shredder, making a papier-mâché piñata with the resulting chaff, and delegating its destruction to a sugar-deprived mob of schoolchildren more than justifies the necessary carbon offset.

Despite the many virtues of publishing on paper, when I prepared the first edition of this book for electronic publishing, I believed that a paper edition was unnecessary; it seemed like the world of print on paper was already well past the verge of being replaced by the world of pixels.  A number of my potential readers, however, expressed their dismay with my decision, and made it clear that they would have preferred that I had published my book in an ordinary paper form.  Some believed that reading on a small screen would give them headaches; others mentioned the increased sense of emotional attachment they associate with physical objects, and a few even declared that they would not be happy with any embodiment of the book that I would not be able to sign personally for them.

This edition of “The Corrected Danny O’Bigbelly” is a response to my friends who regretfully declined to purchase a copy in electronic format, but who promised that they would purchase a copy if I made it available in paper form.  This edition would not exist without their kind words of badgering encouragement.  To those who purchase this edition, I hope it provides them with many hours of enjoyment.

For the rest of them, I’ve called their bluff.

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