The other day I was debating my friend over what it meant to have a collection in this day and age. My friend was of the opinion that a collection is something you can hold in your hand, comprised of items that you have diligently tracked down over a period time and is uniquely yours. To an extent, I agreed with him, though my own definition of a collection is somewhat broader.

While for many people, my pal included, having a stack of slowly yellowing, dog-eared twelve-inch albums is something to salivate over, this is no longer the case for the majority. The appeal of having a bookshelf stuffed full of worn-out Penguin Classics is something that I completely understand (and often fantasise about, too), but for the new generation, growing up with eBooks and MP3s, this is something that, like it or not, is becoming increasingly rare. As with many things, the definition of a collection is changing, and trying to cling on to an outdated idea of what it means is about as futile as asking JLo to stop collaborating with Pitbull.

I see no reason why a collection cannot be digital. Of course, this will not apply to all collections – for example, having a jpeg stamp collection is obviously inferior to a physical stamp collection – with a digital stamp collection you do not actually own any stamps at all. The same cannot be said, however, for things like music and books. If I were to download an eBook to my computer, I would own that book. Sure, I wouldn’t be able to hold it in my hands or give it a good sniff (as I rather like to do), but that book would be mine nonetheless. If I saved up my pennies and bought a new title every once in a while, I would have a collection. Does the fact that my collection is not cluttering up my bookshelf make it any less of a collection? I don’t think so.

Music and books have become much cheaper and easier to own. No longer do we have to spend hours flicking through dusty stacks to find that elusive Beatles single with the Japanese bonus track when we can track it down online and download it in less than a minute. For this reason, you could argue that a digital collection is worth less than a physical one because it has taken less time and effort to amass. That’s fair enough, a physical collection is often a great deal more interesting because there’s a little story behind each component, but claiming that only physical collections are valid smacks of elitism and snobbery. Those who hold that opinion are generally the ones who have the time and money to go rooting around for rarities in backstreet bookshops and indie record stores – but not everyone does.

Not very long ago, to be ‘published’ meant to be signed with a large company and have your books in all the major retailers. This has changed over the past few years thanks to the influx of independent authors that have been taking over. Just as the meaning of ‘published’ has changed, so too has the word ‘collection’. It doesn’t matter whether you have your books and music in your hand or on a digital device – they are a collection nonetheless. The only reason people weren’t doing the same twenty years ago is because they didn’t have the means to – downloading just wasn’t a thing yet. These days, even though we can make collections quickly and easily, some people choose not to do so because the thrill of having a physical entity outweighs the convenience of the digital download. That is fair enough, and no doubt most of us can sympathise with this viewpoint, but this becomes a problem when it is used to talk down to those who prefer to download.

One can appreciate good music and literature just the same whether one downloads it or buys it from a shop –  and no one’s collection should be sneered at because of the format in which it exists.

What do you think? Let me know in a comment below!

The title of this blog may be slightly misleading. And by ‘misleading’, I mean that it is a lie. In truth, I have done, and continue to, thank people who spend a few quid on buying something that I have created. After releasing One Week Of Summer this week, I have been very flattered by the fact that people have been willing to part with their cash in exchange for something I have written. At the risk of sounding overly sentimental, it is hugely gratifying to know that people are supporting what I do, and when someone does tell me that they’ve gone out of their way to buy my book, I always feel that the least I can do is say thank you.

But the more I think about it, the more I have come to feel slightly uneasy about this knee-jerk reaction. I cannot help but feel that by saying ‘thank you’, I am somehow devaluing my writing. I realise that this all sounds very wanky, but let me explain a little more. When one says ‘thank you’, they are generally acknowledging that someone has done them a favour or provided them with a service of some kind. We say thanks when someone holds open a door for us, or gives us a compliment or lends us money. It is understood that one party has done something kind, (for example the friendly money-lender), and the other party (the money-receiver) is somehow indebted to them.

When I thank someone for purchasing my book, I imply that they have done me a service by doing so. In a way, this is not inaccurate, as by buying my work you are not only providing me with some small financial support, but you are also encouraging me to continue doing what I do. What makes me uncomfortable is the idea that I am somehow indebted to you for doing this. Perhaps this reaction is entirely irrational, but by thanking someone for buying my work, I feel as though I am suggesting that they could only possibly have done so either through pity or some sort of obligation as a friend, rather than faith in the merit of the work itself.

I imagine that this is largely down to some sort of deep-rooted insecurity of my own rather than anything else, but to me, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in this context seems almost degrading. I have seen many struggling authors practically begging people to buy and read their books, and by doing so, they only seem to encourage the idea that the the book is mere drivel, and any purchases will be done so in the name of charity rather than a desire to actually read it. I write stuff that I like, and if I thought it was worthless, I wouldn’t charge for it at all. Though I may be a little deluded, I would like to think that those who do buy my books do so because they are interested in the story and expect to actually enjoy it, above all else. While I do try and promote my writing a fair bit, I stay clear of directly asking anyone to buy it for precisely this reason.

I hope that this post has not me sound like an awful ingrate, as I do truly appreciate it when someone buys something I have written. However, when this does happen, I hope that the person will not feel like they have done me a favour, but just bought a book because they liked the sound of it.

And who knows? Maybe they’ll even enjoy it.

What’s your opinion on thanking readers for buying books? Am I just an arrogant wanker, after all? Let me know in a comment below!