Stephen King, Tom Petty, and the Paper Book
Did you know Record Store Day happens in mid-April every year?
Record Store Day was conceived by Chris Brown, and was founded in 2007 by Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Carrie Colliton, Amy Dorfman, Don Van Cleave and Brian Poehner as a celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA, and hundreds of similar stores internationally. (accessed 6/1/12)
In 2011, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers marked Record Store Day by re-releasing their first two albums on limited-edition colored vinyl — just 4,500 worldwide prints of each. These LPs were sold only in independent record shops.
Just recently, Stephen King has announced that his forthcoming book, Joyland, will be available only in paper, at least initially.
You can see the connection I’m making, here.
It’s not exact. Vinyl has long since been a collectors’ medium for music, whereas paper is still the mainstream medium for books. But the similarity is there nonetheless. The Tom Petty re-releases are about harnessing nostalgia for a superseded form in defense of indie record shops, themselves an embattled entity. King, in turn, couches his decision in the language of nostalgia: “I … loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we’re going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being” (accessed 6/1/12).
So, are book stores analogous to record shops? Borders = Tower Records, which went bankrupt in 2006? Ebooks = MP3s? Well, you probably know what I think.
Don’t get me wrong, here. I like browsing in book stores, and I own about a zillion paper books. But I don’t buy many of them, nowadays. I’m one of those people who still buys an occasional CD instead of downloading an album on MP3. But maybe I won’t be doing that ten years from now. CDs take up so much more space, and I have to rip them if I want them on my iPod.
As for record shops, I still like browsing in them, though there isn’t one anywhere near where I’m living right now. I was last in one in summer 2011 — the fantastic Strictly Discs in Madison, Wisconsin. I sold them the last of my import and special-release vinyl. I think they paid me $58.
Problem is, it’s not really about what I like. It’s about what the whole stinking mass of us like, because the whole stinking mass of us spends enough money to dictate how things work for everyone. The resisters eventually get relegated to collector status, and there’s nothing they can do about it.
That’s a hard thing to accept. Heck, you’re looking at someone who held onto her favorite vinyl until 2011, close to twenty years after her last turntable broke. It took that long for me to admit that I was just never going to buy another turntable.
You know what else I’m never going to buy?