karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

Natural selection at work

I just realized I haven't posted all year. Okay, I haven't posted in almost two weeks. Same thing in this case. Actually, I have been sick for over a week with a horrible cold. I thought I was fighting it off successfully, but this past weekend my immune system ran up the white flag, and my body is now occupied territory at the mercy of a ruthless invading virus. Feeling low has given me cause to ponder the forces of natural selection. What did cavemen do when they got a cold? Stay in the cave for a week or so? Kick back and look at the paintings on the wall for a while, maybe knap a few flint arrowheads if they were feeling energetic? I don't think so. They had to keep moving or starve— or maybe get eaten.

And they had to gut it out without any form of multi-symptom cold relief. Which makes me think that maybe modern humans are reintroducing susceptibility to colds into the gene pool by not dying off from having a cold. Certainly, I felt like I was near death yesterday.

Anyway, this put me onto my favorite topic (you guessed it!) — ebooks! I haven't had the mental focus to write a blog post lately, but I have been keeping up with my feed reader, and I have seen several posts that talk about the evolution of books and story telling now that publishers are finally thinking about digital publishing.

Of course, some posts merely focus on the opportunities in marketing “traditional ebooks” (the fact that that phrase is not an oxymoron tells you how fast the technology is changing) to a wider, even global, audience. And after all, there were attempts do make non-linear books in the past, most notably the “Chose Your Own Adventure” kids' books that let the reader decide what they wanted to happen next (the reader turned to a different page depending on which option he or she chose). Those books have already been adapted to ebooks and re-released; no clue how they're selling.

Other posters discuss variations on the book that include more than words and static pictures. The vook has been out for a while, but it doesn't seem to me to be causing a lot of attention— although it did get an iPad overhaul. It's really just a simple hybrid, merging two linear storytelling methods (film and written narrative). Why you would want to do that, I'll never know.

Some ebooks that have a movie or TV version tack on video clips and music, rather like the extras on a movie DVD. The best example I've heard of is Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follet. the iPad app is loaded with extras, including a character tree that grows as you read and lots of video clips and interviews. But even that app maintains the print book at its core.

Recently, gamers have started talking up the way interactive games often tell stories, and how ebooks could become more like games. This would mark a more radical shift. Creating a hybrid of two linear media, like movies and books, yields a still linear result. But games are another story. Books that are interactive (a term that means something different from just enhanced ebooks), offer the potential to be more game than book.

So what I'm hoping is that ebooks work like evolution often does. Not every species goes extinct when something newer comes along. Humans are not descended from chimpanzee, but they share a common ancestor. I hope that the print book will spawn many variations, but among them will be the novel translated intact to digital form. I don't mind if gamers want their hybrids, but I'll take the book as it is now. That's what I want to write and what I want to read.

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Tags: e-books, ebooks, publishing, technology

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