An ebook is for life…..by 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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Stories we tell ourselves – by Jane Ayres

Writers think instinctively in terms of narrative, of story.  It’s how we make sense of the world.  The brain, our computer, processes what we see, feel, hear and looks for meaning in this input, based on our internal database of past experiences, of what has already been recorded and stored.

“Our brain casts us as ‘the protagonist’ and then edits our experience with cinema-like precision, creating logical interrelations, mapping connections between memories, ideas, and events for future reference.  Story is the language of experience.”

(Quote from Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron, Ten Speed Press.)

A story isn’t just about an event, a drama, a character.  It’s about how what happens affects that character and changes them, however subtle or enormous that change.  At the end of the story, things will never be the same.  A story is life.  Life is a story.

We learn from stories and engaging with characters, real or imagined, teaches us about ourselves.

Many people have a profound need to seek solutions and resolutions, to solve the puzzle that is our life, and I wonder if this need is enhanced in those driven to create.  We can explore this desire and feed this compulsion through our work, our stories.  Our therapy and remedy. Imagination is both a blessing and a curse. Reading other people’s stories, whether through fiction, painting, photography, film, music, is just as vital in helping us understand our own stories.

Maybe it explains the human instinct to document, record and collect.  By compiling evidence of your existence, you are assembling your story, or stories, proving that these things happened.  It is saying to yourself and the world; I am, I was.

The phenomenal success of Facebook testifies the depth of this need.  Author Jonathan Franzen is quoted as saying,

“We star in our own movies, we photograph ourselves incessantly, we click the mouse and a machine confirms our sense of mastery….. It’s all one big endless loop. We like the mirror and the mirror likes us.”

The revolution that is the internet has changed the world, presenting us with a dazzling array of creative tools and distribution channels.  We all have a story to tell, to share with the world.  And now all of us can.

By Jane Ayres

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