Monday, December 2, 2013

How is an ebook like Pizza Hut pizza?

Maybe an ebook is to a pbook as Pizza Hut is to pizza

I live and work in Milford, Connecticut. Milford is in New Haven County, an area known for and proud of excellent Neapolitan pizza. (Many of our traditional pizzerias spell pizza as "apizza" and pronounce it "ah-beetz.")

According to a recent "study" published by USA Today three of the nation's best pizza joints are located on one street (Wooster Street) in the city of New Haven.

Some of our local pizzerias have been owned by the same families for two or three generations, and new ones seem to open every few weeks. Because of the loyalty of the locals, it has been hard for the national chains, which have been so successful elsewhere, to build business here.

Everyone in this part of Connecticut has one or two favorite pizzerias. We are experts, fans, aficionados and snobs. People here are less likely to switch pizza sources than to switch cola or jeans brands.

By Mafia decree (or maybe because of simple collusion) local pizzerias are closed on Monday so the pizza makers can spend time with their families.

Apparently Pizza Hut and Domino's have dispensations from the Pope or from il Capo di Tutti Capi ("boss of all bosses" in the Mafia), and are open seven days a week. This means that locals who must have something vaguely pizza-like on the first workday of the week, will go to the Hut or Dom's on that day -- but probably not on other days.

On all days, the pizza chains serve customers who have recently moved from places like Kentucky or Utah and don't know what real pizza is supposed to look and taste like.

(above) Vaguely round, sloppy and delicious traditional New Haven "ah-beetz" from Frank Pepe, and perfectly round and bland pizza from a national chain's factory

And now, about Hut-like books:

I hate the bad typography common to ebooks. But ebooks have made ugly books seem normal, and they are apparently acceptable to a great many readers.

I faced a personal dilemma with ebooks. A few years ago I published a few ebooks as PDFs which maintain the page formatting of my pbooks. I was reluctant to release the books in the more popular -- and uglier -- ebook formats. Because of my elitist attitude I missed readers and income, but I just don't like ugly books. I ultimately gave in, and now make much more money each month from ebooks than from more expensive pbooks. Readers have not complained.

I really enjoy the convenience of ebooks. I am currently having a great time reading The Brothers Emanuel on three PCs, my Kindle Fire, my iPad and my phone. I hate the silly hyphenation, but love that Jeff Bezos keeps track of my reading progress and "opens" the ebook to the right page no matter which device I use to read it with.

I suppose at some point I will stop comparing ebooks to pbooks and will come to accept a Kindle page as normal. Maybe it's part of a parallel universe of publishing.

My cousin Dave is a pizza maven with very high standards -- but he will sometimes tolerate chain pizza. Rather than dismiss Pizza Hut's mass-produced products as substandard pizza, Dave says, "It's not pizza. It's pizza HUT."

Maybe I should be able to say, "It's not a book. It's a HUT BOOK."

(photos from and Domino's)

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