The Sanctity of Story: Enter the eReader
"The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you imagine it. Because it's only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you change the way people think. The way they see themselves. They way they see the world. You can change the way people live their lives. That's the only lasting thing you can create." - Chuck Palahniuk
The unstoppable march of technological progression, racing through and over innocent bystanders and early adopters alike, oblivious to both time and space. We are in it. We are part of it. We created it. We are slaves to it.
New waves of tech come at us, no longer annually, but daily. We barely have time to become acquainted with our new products before an upgraded replacement has been announced. This constant barrage of replacement technologies has not only emptied our bank accounts, but it has essentially dismissed the idea of any type of loyalty to a single product; giving rise instead to brand loyalty. Brand loyalty is great for the producer, as it allows them to release a product a year, and we gobble it up.
Little do we realize, amongst this constant barrage of tech madness, our resistance to change has slowly been reduced to angry forum posts. It used to be, if someone were resisting change, they would simply boycott the product and that would be that. Nothing boggles my mind more than people who spend a massive amount of money on tech, use it constantly, and then jump online to say how much they despise their new toy.
There are very few pieces of tech that have been allowed to fall into redundancy while the rest of the world has sped by (toothbrush, waste basket, guitar pick, etc.). Up until around five or six years ago, the printed word was one such piece of technology.
Enter the ebook. No longer was it necessary for you to run to the bookshop or the library to get your literary fix, it was right in your hands. With the onset of the ebook came the rise of the ereader and, since book tech hadn't changed in centuries, this beget the rise of the eProtestor.
I must admit, when I was in college and the ebook first began to hit the proverbial scene, I was one of these protestors. I was also incredibly naive of any picture that could represent something larger than my narrow view of the world. I ranted and raved that this technological intrusion into my blessed print consumption would end the printed word as we know it. I would scoff at those even willing to give it a chance, all because I was afraid that the way I read a story fundamentally affected the story itself. This same idea has continued to grow, and the movement of people refusing to use an ereader/tablet to read a story has grown with it.
Since those years of dissension, I have slowly began to adopt what technology has to offer me as a reader. No longer do I believe that this tech will destroy print. I have come to embrace it as a useful tool in my consumption of story after story.
There are many ways that my tablet has greatly enhanced my view of reading as a whole. I am a huge fan of collected volumes, and a digital library allows me to collect a lifetime of volumes in one, easily accessible, space. Not only that, but there have been many instances in which a costly trip to the local bookstore left me disappointed in the fact that I was unable to find the book, graphic novel, or comic that I was searching for. There has yet to be an instance when I couldn't find the volume I was looking for online.
I am also a huge fan of the ability to download an entire series. This really comes into play with comic book runs. Comic books are cataloged far differently than books, with distinct story arcs being told within a larger saga. Many times, finding print editions of each volume is nigh impossible, due to the utter lack of comic book retail locations in this day and age. With my tablet I, once again, have yet to run into an instance when I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for.
I have also found, due to the fact that online publishing eliminates printing costs, that volumes found online are cheaper. The disparity in cost is marginal, but those small amounts begin to add up when you're purchasing four or five books a month.
The customizable nature of the ereader is extremely appealing to me as well. I can control font size, font type, background color, page transition animation, and much more. My tablet also allows me to place comprehensive notes that correspond to certain sections in the text without destroying the piece, like it would with a paper print edition. I am a large fan of running through novels twice, so having these notes readily accessible enhances my second read through. The ability to access online reference resources while in the text has also increased both my joy and comprehension during my reading sessions.
Lastly, as an author myself, the open nature of publication online is incredibly appealing. Making it as an author in a Patterson ruled world is difficult at the best of times. The online platform levels the playing field a bit. Any time an author can get maximum exposure for their creative work is a win in my book. <--yea
I am a large proponent of the ebook because it is a required evolution. One need not look any further than our archaic education system to see that newer generations require a much more tech integrated touch in order to gain their interest. If this means we need to move our stories to a platform they are more comfortable with, than we do it.
The sanctity of the story is what is important. How you digest that story is not. Brilliant minds pour years into crafting the beautiful realms in which we love to escape. I refuse to believe that an author who has meticulously sculpted a world for you, truly cares how you enter that realm.
How we approach reading stories has more to do with how we enjoy the experience of reading, not the story. There are days when I prefer sitting with a cup of tea and ripping through a paperback. There are yet other days when I prefer my tablet with that same tea. The story hasn't changed. The setting hasn't changed. My comprehension of the story hasn't changed. The tea hasn't changed.
In the end, there does not need to be a choice made between print and digital stories. I thoroughly enjoy both paperback and digital copy. Declining ereader sales are proof that the print industry is far from dead (except for you newspapers, sorry for your luck). This discussion of apocalyptic proportions, dealing with the death of print, seems a bit premature to me.
I am of the mind that all change is good change, regardless of the emotion we apply to the circumstance. Along a long enough timeline, change pushes us to reflect on how we operate, on how we live our lives. I don't fear the rise of the ereader, or the consequential death of the printed word.
What I fear is the loss of creativity. The responsibility to preserve this fundamental portion of our humanity rests solely on our shoulders. We were all complicit in the rise of technology, and we continue to fund its progress. To bemoan what this technology represents, purely for the sake of assuaging our own fear of the unknown, is to live in regret. Personally, I am not a huge fan of that.
As a species, we must be conscious of the fact that we sometimes allow nostalgia to overtake reason. Technology came about to streamline our way of life, and it has done so in ways none could fathom. But, progress for the sake of progress is regression. We can not allow the juggernaut of technological innovation to rob us of our humanity, or influence the way we perceive the world around us.
Our individual interpretations of this world are what make us unique. To fall prey to mass distraction, and seemingly flit between hollow recollections, signals the death of that individuality. Hold fast and read your stories in any manner you can my fellow humans.