Wednesday, October 7, 2009

As if E-Books Were Not Bad Enough....

You may have noticed that I am not a huge fan of the whole e-book "revolution". I have issues, issues with the readers and issues with the e-books themselves. In my opinion, e-books have not developed to a level that can match the experience of reading a book. Maybe they are more efficient, maybe the offer a certain convenience, if you are looking just in terms of relaying information. If a book is just a series of images of words, then maybe the e-book is a capable medium. But for me, dinosaur that I am, reading a book is about more than just the transfer of information. It is an experience and the e-book experience has some serious problems at this point.

But fear not! It seems that some publishers are ready to meet this challenge. According to an article in the NY Times,
" the age of the iPhone, Kindle and YouTube, the notion of the book is becoming increasingly elastic as publishers mash together text, video and Web features in a scramble to keep readers interested in an archaic form of entertainment.

On Thursday, for instance, Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King, is working with a multimedia partner to release four “vooks,” which intersperse videos throughout electronic text that can be read — and viewed — online or on an iPhone or iPod Touch."
Yes, it seems that what that "archaic form of entertainment", the book, needed all! But wait, there is even more on the horizon. Jude Deveraux, an author of some 36 romance books, now known as "straightforward text novels", has even more suggestions for the future "book".
"Ms. Deveraux said she envisioned new versions of books enhanced by music or even perfume. “I’d like to use all the senses,” she said.
Brian Tart, publisher of Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, which released “Level 26,” said he wanted the book’s text to be able to stand on its own, but the culture demanded rethinking the format."
Personally, I like using my imagination. I don't think the "format"...formally known as books...needs "rethinking."

And maybe I am not the only one to see some problems with this vision of the future.
If people develop a taste for this enhanced medium...formally known as books...will the next generation have the patience to sit and read Henry James or George Eliot? Will centuries of classics sit unread in the future, unless someone goes back enhances those dusty, old books and let's us smell the cologne Mr Rochester wore? Oh wait, that's right, they won't be sitting anywhere because all the libraries will be going digital, like my favorite prep school.

Happily, not everyone is on board.
"Some authors scoff at the idea of mixing the two mediums. As a novelist I would never ever allow videos to substitute for prose, said Walter Mosley, the author of “Devil in a Blue Dress” and other novels.

“Reading is one of the few experiences we have outside of relationships in which our cognitive abilities grow,” Mr. Mosley said. “And our cognitive abilities actually go backwards when we’re watching television or doing stuff on computers.”
So, what do you think? Is there something, anything, unique and special about the traditional book or is this just me, yet again, fighting the inevitable?


  1. Oh Caite, we will forever be discussing this! You know I am a big fan of the Kindle, but I will never tire of reading a hard book. Not real sure about the video thing, but I certainly have to give credit to those that are thinking outside the box! I like that! Luckily, most of us bloggers are instilling the love of reading hard books into our children, so the legacy should live on into the next generation!

  2. Interesting stuff. Yes, I was pretty appalled, too, when I heard about this new "vooks" thing. And I totally agree about all your issues with e-books and the e-book experience (or possibly the non-experience). However, I'm pretty pessimistic about all of this, too. Reading a "traditional" book is definitely unique and special, but I'm afraid that, unless there's some sort of worldwide cataclysm that wipes out all electronic media, the changes are inevitable and they're coming much faster than I'd hoped.

  3. I do love a regular book, but have to admit that e-books are great too. I don't know about all this video stuff, but I'm sure we'll adapt if it comes to that.

  4. I dislike e-books emensly, but as a member of Pulse It i get to read pre-release books free online. i'd prefer, however, to read them and hold them in my hands. i have trouble reading online because of my eyes. and yes i hate "vooks" too. just gimme a book bound with paper!!

  5. I think it's an interesting idea to mix media. Recently my husband and I bought a book by Laura Esquivel that had sections of graphic novel like pictures, no words, and it came with a CD to listen to specific songs with specific passages. I like the idea of a different reading experience. Sometimes music (or other) can enhance our experience, sometimes not.

    I've read several books on the kindle, but i find that I"m so used ot book that it's difficult for me to really get into kindle editions. I find them falling flat, and i don' tknow if that's because so far I've just had not great books (free ones off Gutenberg), or if it's the medium itself. Time will tell. But I don't think any sort of new mashup will destroy the novel as it exists - I imagine that's what people thought about graphic novels, too, and that hasn't stopped books from coming out.

    (please forgive the typoes and stuff, I just woke up. YOu'r emy first comment of the mrning.)

  6. It's all pretty horrifying. Books will become those rare items once again. I really don't get it. Movies are one thing, books are another. They engage us in different ways. I don't know where this will all lead, but I'm certainly glad to have lived in an age when books are plentiful and readily available.

  7. I love real books and they can never be replaced by the e version. But I will say that I love the kindle and actually prefer reading on it. It's easier on my eyes and I like the ease of transporting my books as I go from place to place. I do miss the covers and being able to thumb through the pages. I also have no concept of where I am in the book. I like being able to highlight, book mark, and make notes as I go without ruining my book. I hate the fact I can't share the book with my friends and family. I'm not sure about video in a book--I'm like you I'd rather let my mind make the images. Oh another thing I really like is the dictionary feature. If I come across a word I don't know, I can look it up immediately. I guess its like anything new, there are pros and cons and it just takes some getting used to. I think in the end you'll probably capitulate :)

  8. Yes, they engage us in different ways...
    I too am rather pessimistic about the future of books, because bottom line, e-books are cheaper, cheaper to make, cheaper to buy, and so often price will win out. Look how many serious readers, our fellow bloggers have been won over. People that read less will be even easier to 'convert' once the price of the readers come down.

    My answer is to just buy enough books to last me the rest of my life, before they become rare. Ignore that fear I had of becoming a hoarder.

  9. While I have to appreciate anything that gets more people to read, I am not a fan of anything that limits the actual reading - watching a video is not reading. It's terrifying to think of books going the way of the dinosaur..or VHS tapes...for we lose much when we lose books.

  10. When I first heard about e-readers, I was appalled. However, as time has passed, my horror has lessened. Dare I say that I love my Kindle? I find, surprisingly enough, that I read faster on the Kindle and it was nice to take it along on vacation and not the usual suitcase of books that accompany me. On the other hand, I do love books themselves. The feel, the smell, all of it. I work in a branch library and I process all our new books. Best job ever.

    Things are changing though. We talked today at work about the future of libraries and how many things are changing quickly. I don't think that books and libraries are on the way out, but I do think that all of them will look a lot different 20 years from now, at least to those of us that are having this discussion now. Maybe it's not such a bad thing. If you had told me about CD's and DVD's and computers and all the tech stuff we take for granted now when I was 10 (40+ years ago), I would have thought you were crazy.

    Sigh, it's hard to adjust, isn't it?

  11. Shoot! Now I think I should have bought more books at the library sale for my hoarding pile. Scary, scary, scary world we live in. Sigh . . .

  12. Hi, Caite! I just found out that the Kindle is now being sold globally. I can't wait to get my hands on one! But like you, I'm a bit apprehensive as to its repercussions on the book buying habits of people.

    I do want people to buy books AND to buy the Kindle. But I guess this is just wishful thinking on my part. Somehow, one of these two will emerge better than the other. However, the book has history on its side.

  13. Trisha, yes they are teo different experience, but I am afraid that is in danger.

    Kay...your horror has lessened huh?like the story of the frog in the pot of warm water....

    Marie...vooks sound cute...but they are evil, evil I tell ya!

    Kaye, I am trying to figure out where to build more bookcases as we speak.

    Peter, yes, the global Kindle is here it seems. which raises even more issues...

  14. See ... now the Kindle doesn't seem so bad!!! : )

    I'm really really opposed to the concept of a vook or a book that smells. Seriously...that is very very wrong.

    And if they publish good stuff, we will come.


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