Why, hello there!-I was just appraising some rare PDFs in the back room when I heard you come in. Feel free to peruse our inventory, and if you have any questions, please allow me-one of the world's foremost authorities on and purveyors of fine electronic books-to act as your steward through the wonderfully esoteric world of antique eBook collecting.
No, I'm sorry. The bathroom is for customers only.
But if I can draw your attention to our unsurpassed selection of priceless first-edition Kindle files, I'm sure you'll find something to tickle your fancy. Take this copy of The Road for instance: it was downloaded from Amazon only two hours after the novel first went on sale back in '07-yet note how the .azw file is still in pristine condition!
Look, I don't care that it'll only take a second. Either buy something or go across the street to Saxby's.
No, I don't have any DRM-cracked Game of Thrones files for Nook. Sir, need I remind you that this is a serious, scholarly establishment with an incredibly sophisticated clientele? Why, just the other day Jonathan Franzen was in here asking for directions to the Apple Store. At any rate, petty digital piracy is beneath my craft.
Now if you'll look over here, you'll see that we have a rare .doc draft of The Corrections that I found when someone accidentally left his laptop bag in the store. How does $7,000 sound?
Wait, wait!-don't leave yet. You still haven't seen this yet: a four-gigabyte Kindle DX autographed by none other than preeminent postmodern novelist Don DeLillo. "To Eric-Wow, now you can't read the screen of this $400 eReader. That sucks. Sorry." It doesn't get much more postmodern than that, right?
Or check this out: an .rtf containing the text of the original 42-line Gutenberg Bible, elegantly typeset in MS Courier New. I have a couple thousand other copies of the file on an external hard drive, but I'll happily delete them to make this one rarer if you'd like.
It's yours for ten grand. I'll even throw in Franzen's MacBook.
What! How dare you say that! Look-if anything, it's your so-called "actual, non-fake" rare bookstores that don't make any sense. Why would any discerning aficionado prefer to own an obscure multi-volume first printing of Jane Austen's Emma in original half-calf binding when, for only a few thousand dollars more, he can have a version that I copied and pasted from someone's Tumblr a couple days ago?
Face it-eBook sales are up, analog eBook sales are down. Pretty soon collectors are going to realize that normal people no longer share their bourgeois fascination with things like the bittersweet aroma of ink on paper, or the satisfying heft of a classic hardcover, or the fact that books don't randomly turn off when you forget to charge them. And when that day comes, not only will I finally be rewarded for my foresight and business acumen, but also I won't have to avoid my landlord anymore.
For you see, you're not just standing in a cramped, unfurnished storefront in a crappy neighborhood, staring at a plastic bucket full of key-chain thumb drives-you're standing in the future. And if you can't appreciate that, well, then I don't want your business.
Ok, deal. Five bucks for the George R.R. Martin PDFs and the bathroom key is yours.
Eric Hague is a writer living in Philadelphia. This piece originally appeared on McSweeneys.
Republished with permission.