Ok, so our attachment to the novel is an attachment to a relatively new art form, one that evolved due to technological and physiological concerns- not artistic ones. But moving pictures are only just over 100 years old as well, and a lot of us are pretty damn attached to that art form, and it is not dying anytime soon! So what makes me so sure the novel is a dying art form? Because there are newer, more convenient ways to enjoy written stories:
Those of you who have heard my ongoing rant about the future of media distribution will recognize a similarity to my argument against trying to preserve physical media (that is another rant for another time). Basically I am not attached to any specific physical media, I am attached to the stories and music that they hold. If you look at how humans consume, they often go for the easiest, most convenient way to get what they want. And this is the crux of David’s point here- that new electronic forms of reading trump paper. The benefits of electronic distribution and consumption outweigh the sentimental attachment we have to the medium. The novel is not dead now, now will it be for years to come. But when it does die, story telling will live on.
I have been pretty down on myself the past few years for not reading enough books and newspapers in general. My mother reads constantly; I currently read 1-3 books a year, and mostly while on vacation, which doesn’t happen often enough for me. I have realized recently that I actually do read more words/day than a lot of people do, using RSS feeds to browse my favorite writers (you call them bloggers, I think you’re not seeing them for what they are) and news stories. I am as up to date and filled with ideas now as I ever have been, leading me to realize that reading is not dying, printing is.
So far this post has been a lot of doomsaying and negativity (depending on your perspective). Here is why the death of words printed on paper and bound into books is a completely acceptable state of affairs. This story would never be possible in book form, not in an interactive and entertaining way. It is a semi-interactive narrative using Google Maps to illustrate and animate through the story line. Notice that it is from Penguin, a book publisher. They are not simply getting on the electronic book bandwagon, they are recognizing and capturing the possibilities that electronic story telling offers. Or how about this site. David Wong’s brilliantly written novel, “John Dies at the End”, available online for free. It in fact started out online and was moved to a paper novel form after it gained success on the web. Every page has large nagging links telling you to buy it in paper form, which is brilliant marketing. I have only read a few pages, but I’m hooked, and would honestly pay to continue reading online. This is some very smart usage of online distribution, and it is effective. I never would have read this story if it were not online, but now that I have found it, I am in love with Wong’s writing.
To round this all up and put an end to it so you can go enjoy the writing of far superior writers to myself:
The printed word will die because the electronic word is more convenient and more powerful.
Disagree? Share your thoughts below, let’s have a good old fashioned debate about this if you think I am wrong here.