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Are ebooks vampires?

The British paper The Telegraph ran an article by author Andrew Keen that's gotten some web ink. Mr. Keen is not afraid of expressing his opinion, as seen in his title: "Ebooks will make authors soulless, just like their product."

The many commenters who weighed in did not, as a rule, agree with his assessment. They skewered his arguments with comparisons to other technological changes (clay tablets to papyrus, scrolls to books, etc.), and lamented his misspelling of another author's name. One reason eReaders seem to provoke so much rancor is that almost all the people who buy them are avid readers, book lovers to the core. On the other hand, the people who don't like ebooks because they so enjoy the sensory part of reading print books are also book lovers. Naturally, passions are going to run high.

Mr. Keen appears to take the sensory side to a new level. ". . .I want my work to be fingered by my readers. I want young women . . . to wait in line for me to sign copies of my work. Like a character in a Stephanie Meyer fantasy, the e-book drains the blood from the physical text. No, this cultural revolution can’t be recommended."

Actually, I think that quote sounds kind of icky, like he wants all his readers to stroke the book as a substitute for stroking him. With that kind of guiding principle, we should all be reading in Braille. And I think Mr. Keen is missing the point. The purpose of books is to entertain and to inform, to allow the mind of the author to connect with the mind of the reader. That can happen when the "reader" listens to a book, or sees it or feels the words with his fingertips. The formula is simple:

    Writer's brain ----> Words -------> Reader's brain

Everything else is merely a question of format, which has always and will always change with time.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 21st, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
Wow... I had no idea how "personally" people take the format of a book. I guess I now know where Scott Greenfield got his comments on how people that have their libraries on Kindles "have no soul."

One of the good things about all the protesting is that is seems to verify that eBooks have arrived (after many failed attempts over the past 10 years.) I, for one, am happy to have the option of print or electronic and welcome the change, rather than demonize it.
Sep. 21st, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
It is interesting, isn't it? I've always loved reading, but I don't understand the attachment to the book format if something new offers advantages. I find that owning a Kindle makes it easier to carve out time to read because it fits in my purse. Plus, the "try a free sample" feature makes me more inclined to try out new authors. Why is that "soulless"?

Maybe you're right and the difference is that ebooks now seem viable, so paper-format lovers see them as threat. But technology also provides POD- print on demand-- which may help keep printed books more viable for a good long while. The Espresso is a cool piece of hi-tech, too!
Sep. 22nd, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
I think I heard that at the North American Discworld convention this month, Terry Pratchett wrote his first autograph on somebody's Kindle. Interesting concept; I wonder if future models will include some feature for collecting and maintaining some form of autograph?
Sep. 22nd, 2009 06:28 pm (UTC)
Interesting! I wonder how he did that? Short of having them sign the eReader itself, it is a loss. My friend Mindy Klasky signed her Kindle book by entering a note on the title page, but of course, it would look exactly the same if I did that myself-- although I did get another person to "witness" the signature.

It would be nice to have a way to append a signature to the title page. Also, we have decided they need a way to delete with a flushing sound for when you really DON'T like a book. You can't throw the Kindle against the wall!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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