An ebook is for life… Jane Ayres


(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) By alienratt

In a previous post I quoted author Jonathan Franzen, and do so again as his views are thought provoking. Regarded as one of America’s greatest living novelists, he is not a fan of the ebook.

“The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it’s pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change.”

When I first read this quote I immediately thought, what a strange thing to say.  An ebook is forever.  Once it’s out there, it’s there until the writer takes it down.  A printed book only exists while it is in print.  And paper and ink can rot, burn, fade and be physically destroyed. Therefore lost in that way.

Then I thought some more about permanence/impermanence.  When it comes to matters digital, different formats need different hardware to read.  We have a choice of formats  –  kindle, kobo, nook  – to name a few, that all vary.  But if you can read, you can read a print book without needing some special device.

And of course, some digital formats become obsolete. We only have to think about  Amstrad (my first proper computer!), cassette tapes, video now replaced by dvd (which will undoubtedly disappear in time). Content on these formats has been lost.

When I started writing, my work was stored on big floppy disks, then smaller versions for the Amstrad (not compatible with any other format!), then pc floppies, and memory sticks.  Now we can store data on wafer thin cards and out there in the cloud.  All these changes in the space of a relatively few years.  So now I can get a handle on what Franzen is saying.   And it is so easy and cheap to alter digital content compared to amending a printed copy of a book.

Personally, I am a fan of both formats.  I love printed books and I love my kindle.   I’ve also read extended pieces on my blackberry. I can’t help wondering what the future will hold…….

By Jane Ayres

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3 thoughts on “An ebook is for life… Jane Ayres

  1. I simply can’t get my head around the excitement over ebooks, or any other form of digital media for that matter. The permanence issue above is a big one. I still have the books I had when growing up – if I’d been given them digitally, what’s to said that device would still exist? The idea that you’re doing little more than renting a book and you’re at the mercy of the provider (as the recent Kindle 1984 debacle demonstrated) is incredibly troubling to me. And that’s before we even get to the whole tangible object in your hands argument. I’ll switch to ebooks around the same time that I switch to mp3s, downloaded films and digital games. Which I anticipate happening just the other side of never.

  2. Before I got my kindle (which was a xmas gift) I never imagined that I would enjoy using it and put it off for ages. But, libraries are places I love, and what I enjoy with the kindle is having that library at my fingertips. To my surprise, I actually read loads more now – because I still love my “tree” books, especially on an aesthetic level, but it is handy and convenient to be able to carry (effectively) a stack of stories, essays and non-fiction to dip in and out of without the physical weight! However, I do share your concerns about our enormous reliance on downloads of everything and how it is changing society…..

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