Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Response: Regarding the Holidays

So today, Shelf Awareness featured this quote in its' (week)daily newsletter:

"Technology is ruining the holidays. A download is a dud gift (dudload?). When you give a 'real world' book to someone you are saying, 'I am totally in love with this book and think you will be too,' or 'The sentiment in this book reminded me of you,' or 'Here, this is a journey you will never forget.' A book is a personal gift--something uniquely picked out, inscribed, and physically presented to another person. It has emotional and actual weight. I am not saying there are not other good gifts out there (a ukulele comes to mind), but with a book you don't have to: mortgage the home, guess bra size, learn to sing, or find out too late that they are allergic to nuts. That is why I think the book is the best gift you can give. It is economical, beautiful, hours of entertainment, thoughtful, and can last (both physically and in the mind) a lifetime."
--Steven Salardino, manager of Skylight Books, Los Angeles,
Calif.,from the bookstore's latest e-newsletter

& I must say, I do not necessarily agree with the thesis.

To begin with, a gift is a gift. I am one of those people who truly does believe it is the thought that counts. At the moment, I am exceedingly poor. My friends are very poor. For some people, the purchase of a book - hardcover or paperback - is simply more than they can afford. If someone gives me a card, I am grateful that they thought of me.

This is the issue with saying that a download or a gift card or anything else is not a "real" gift - it's ungrateful and it's pretentious.

Receiving anything - electronic, handwritten - is something of which a person should be appreciative. And while it can feel more meaningful to receive something that was hand picked by someone else who is thinking of you, it can feel exceedingly annoying to receive something that has been hand picked by someone else which you already own and/or which shows that person obviously knows nothing about you.

I once received a sweater 2 or 3 sizes too large with a ruffly neck. I was 20. & this was not a cute ruffle - it was too large, of knitted fabric, and the wrong color, to boot. I was glad to receive a gift, but mortified that the giver thought I was that much larger than I actually am, and at the realization that it was, in fact, possible for me to look like a grandmother at 20-years-old. All I had to do was wear that sweater. (I'm shuddering now just thinking about it.)

Receiving a gift is always nice - receiving a gift that has been "hand picked" by someone who did not take the time or make the effort to get to know you kind of defeats the purpose.

So if you're thinking of someone, but it's difficult to figure out the perfect gift for that person in between working 3 jobs, taking 12 credit hours, and raising a couple of kids, is it really so wrong to purchase something that gives the receiver some flexibility? (This is not me, by the way - only two jobs; not in school again yet; no kids... Just a random example.)

If you purchase a gift card, that means that the receiver can purchase whatever they want at the location for which you purchased that card. If you receive a download, that means that there are more options for where to obtain, read, etc. this gift - all you need is a computer. Maybe you can simply carry your gift around at all times, on a Smart Phone. (I can't - I always abuse my phones, and so don't bother to purchase a nice, expensive one - but maybe you can...)

I understand where this bookseller is coming from - he sells books, and he wants to make it sound appealing for other people to sell books, too. But I think it's ridiculous to claim that technology is ruining the holidays. The fact is, some e-books are nearly as expensive as the hard copies, and will not be purchased anyway. Yet there are some very great e-books out there which are less expensive, and therefore more fiscally feasible for some people to obtain.

A gift which results in more variety, as well as encourages literacy should not be looked down upon. Period.

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