Paper Verses Screen

Many authors/writers, even readers, seem to be harbouring a concern about these newfangled e-books.  They speak as if these ghastly gadgets will cause a decline in readers, and an overall lack of interest in books.  To which I say, “Seriously?”

I’m young, quite young, a teenager, and just barely one at that.  And I am sick and tired (admittedly I tend to use “old people phrases”) of anybody older than 3o demonizing new technology, and to boot, the young people who use it.  “Don’t sit too close to the television; you’ll go blind/cross-eyed.”  We’ve all heard this stuff and it usually turned out to be an unfounded myth.  There’s more stuff now too.  “Cell phones cause cancer.”  I doubt it.  “They’ve” done studies.  There’s no real evidence that cellular phones cause health defects.  “Video games cause teen violence.”  Teens cause teen violence.  If you have such a loose connection to reality that a violent video game can make you murder, then you’re diognosably psychotic already.  If you have such a lax conscience that a bit of blood on a screen can desensitize you, you’re halfway down the road to sociopathic already.  But I digress.

My point is, even in the medieval times, people were afraid of new technology.  I think it has to do with a nostalgic factor.  The new will replace the old, and the users anticipate missing the old.  Young people have the advantage of not having enough experience with the old to miss it.  I personally know some writers who refuse to use a computer to record their work, preferring instead to handwrite it!  I wouldn’t handwrite a grocery list if I could avoid it.

And here it goes with e-books.  And, as I’m sure you’ve figured out, I’m in full support of them.  I mean, why not?  Why would an author care about the actual, physical pages?  Aren’t the words, those marvelous, magical, mystical words that form the plot, the characters, the actual story more important?  And they don’t change!  A person reading on a Kindel is going to understand the story the same way as someone flipping pages.  As well, all those marvelous other things that novels have are maintained.  Cover design, synopsis/teaser, foreword, acknowledgements, everything!

And I daresay that e-books might cause an increase in young readers.  Seriously.  It takes less effort to go out and buy books when you can just download from an infinite selection, for one thing.  For another, and this is a serious concern for some people, nobody can tell what your reading.  Men, you can read all the Harlequins you want and your wife never has to know.  And, possibly the most important, if you buy e-books on some piece of technology that’s not exclusive to reading (like an i-pad), chances are good that you’ll have it on you even if you don’t intend to read anything.  Then, if you find a moment, bang, you read a chapter, when you otherwise might not have had a book on you.  Who carries novels around, really?

But, there still will be the nostalgics, the ones who’ll miss the fresh scent of paper, the slightly intoxicating scent of ink.  Hey, for us writers and readers, that’s a sort of comfort, the way an athlete might relax at the scent of sweat.  Well, more than you would anyway.  And, yes, I might miss those things.  But, it’s not like Imma through out my old collections.  An e-reader might help me fill in the gaps too.

So, authors, it’s not like you have to prepare for an increasingly difficult market.  As long as there are writers, there will be readers.  If you write it, they will read.  They will cry and laugh just the same.  My dad tells me that there are a few jobs that will always exist, despite the evolution of new technology.  And, I’m pretty sure “storyteller” is one of them.  (If not, I’ll settle with compulsive liar.)   

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