Saturday, August 6, 2011
ebooks, epublishing and how we read and write
Here is a link to an interesting article from the Independent on how the Internet and the development of ebooks (and epublishing) is changing the way we read. I'm not sure I agree with everything Johann Hari is saying but I think many of his points are worth discussing. His article reminded me how much we need to debate what we think the gains and losses of ebooks and epublising might be for those of us writing (and reading) novels and short fiction, given how much these literary forms have changed and evolved in their (short) history and what has influenced and caused these changes and developments.
For example, a large and on-going influence on contemporary fiction and written storytelling has been film and the film industry. Currently, Hollywood 'experts' like Christopher Vogler (The Writer's Journey) and Robert McKee (Story), who have written interesting but formulaic how-to books on the construction of narrative/story, have been held up by many as the new 'masters' to take note of and follow. While their experiences and opinions are fascinating and informative, they are culturally and industry bound and not the definitive summary of all that narrative is, or how it should work - in the end they are talking about what they think works in Hollywood.
A couple of weeks ago I attended another discussion on the woes of the current publishing industry. A claim was made that ebooks and epublising are as big a cultural revolution as the advent of the printing press. This may well be true, and if it is, then writers and readers, as much as publishers, book producers, booksellers, and Hollywood experts, need to have a say in what is written, what is valued, how it is produced and distributed, and who benefits.
How we respond to the changing nature of publishing and distribution is critical to our cultural and financial survival as writers - lets not leave it the hands of the very industries that have always made more money out of our labour than we have.