Sunday, 12 June 2011

A KIND OF VOID: The Impersonal World Of The e-Book

Two things happened recently that gave me pause for thought.
The first was one of those peculiar twists of fate where I discovered that I lived just seven miles from an old classmate. We had a brilliant reunion going through the school register of our mind and recalling the teachers. As he was leaving he caught sight of one of my bookcases and said the usual 'Oh! My God, I remember that.' Well, yeah it was one of those that went around the class.

The second was just sitting in the high street waiting for the wife. I had a bag of books and I took time out to read the back cover and the potted bio of the author.

On the other hand I had a couple of e-books but apart from a link to the authors themselves. I knew the writers but what about those that I've never met? There is something impersonal there. Holding a book, smelling either a newness or the warm scent of something well read, is missing from the download.

Now there are those who will offer and opposing arguement and this is not an anti arguement. It's just that the pro and anti lobby miss a fundamental point and that is that both print and download can co-exist. I think that it is essential.

Why?

I have books in a bookcase because I am a collector (and a hoarder).
Being a collector has an importance in the world of books. Where, then, can I find a first edition of Tony Masero's first novel 'The Riflemen'? In years to come it will be lost in the void - maybe, even forgotten. No one will remember that the author was the man who, as an artist, gave Edge his face or Tupelo Gold her sexuality. I know this but will the generations to come?
In a way electronic publishing is dismissing and disposing of the first edition as though such a thing has no place in the literary world.

Readers, like those who enthuse about music and movies live in a visual world. They need something that touches all the senses. Maybe, that is why kids today tend to turn to the video games where there is a kind of reality that they can identify with.

Without a balance between e-books and real books many authors will just disappear into a digital void.

2 comments:

David Cranmer said...

".. many authors will just disappear into a digital void."
I love print books and totally understand the sentiment here, Ray.

Oscar said...

I've given a number of first editions away over the years and now I wished I had them back. If there is no print on paper, there will be no more to collect, as you say.