By what definition is something “real”? Take books, for instance. Between the two of us, my husband and I have enough hardcover and paperback titles that we could easily open our own bookstore or library. We also travel a lot and have no fewer than several dozen titles loaded on our respective Kindles.
The latter is a mystifying device to my beloved aunt, a former high school English teacher. When I first explained the concept to her, she asked what I did if I wanted to read an electronic book in bed. “I don’t think I’d like a big computer monitor sitting on top of me,” she said. To illustrate the compact nature of what a Kindle was, I took a photograph of it next to my coffee cup. This, however, confused her even more, for how could a flat little device like that hold 3,000 books at the same time? Furthermore, what happened to those books after I read them? I told her that they could either be archived indefinitely or deleted into the ether.
“But what if you want to read it a second or third time?” she asked. I could just imagine her horror that deleted books waft somewhere into outer space and are summarily blown up, never to be seen again.
I explained that there was a retrieval system to download these books back into the queue but even this didn’t satisfy her. “It would be much easier to just go take it off a shelf,” she said. Old books – like old friends – have always been plentiful in her life and she takes pride in knowing exactly where all of them are.
Despite my insistence that hardcover/paperback and ebooks can co-exist in the same universe, she just doesn’t believe it. Accordingly, whenever I tell her that I’ve just finished reading a great novel, the first question she asks is whether it was a “real” book or “one of those fake ones.”
As I see it, it takes just as much time for a writer to compose an 80,000 word book that’s published traditionally as it does to have that book published in a digital format. The same amount of time and care goes into designing the cover art, planning a marketing platform, and acquiring reviews. Why then, should an ebook be treated as anything less real and meaningful than that same content printed on paper?
A similar argument can be made for brick-and mortar-establishments versus those that exist entirely online. Depending on the type of product or service you’re promoting, one may work much better for you and your budget than the other or, as your company grows, there may even be a hybrid version; i.e., an online catalogue where customers can view designer merchandise and a physical store where they can try items on.
“So is it a ‘real’ business you’ve set up?” people might ask you. To which you can take a page from Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit: “Real isn’t how you’re made. It’s a thing that happens to you. It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. Once you are real, you can’t become unreal again.”
If you love your business with all your heart and can’t imagine going to bed or waking up without thinking about it, it doesn’t get any more “real” than that, no matter where or how it happens to exist in the big scheme of things.
Excerpted from “Office For One, The Sole Proprietor’s Survival Guide.”
Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle
Here’s this month’s line-up of guest contributors:
Top 10 Rules for Working With a Spouse – by Lee Romano Sequeira
Surviving the Age of Total Data Dependency – by Rich Silva
The 7 Deadly Sins of Bad Networking – by Rosalind Cardinal
Five Lessons about Finance from the Most Successful Businessmen – by James D. Burbank
Mastering Web Design to Convert Traffic to Sales – by Ben Bradshaw