The immortal story

Given that my son who is not yet four and has less than 2 hours of screen time a week (and yet knows exactly what screen time is and that he wants more of it) recently taught my husband how to do something on his iPad, it’s easy to see that the future involves screens. So what’s a book, a decidedly un-screened thing, to do? Many people are talking about the future of books, and no one seems to know what to predict. It’s clear that digital books are the future. But will they exist alongside paperbacks or replace them entirely? Will books made of trees be the illumated manuscripts of the future, only to be examined in museums?

Will we be snuggling up with an e-reader soon?

On a personal note, I would hate to see the disappearance of books. They are too much a part of my childhood, too much a part of my free time and my personal space, for me to give them up that easily. But on the other hand, maybe we are asking the wrong question. We are talking about the horse when we should be talking about transportation. We are talking about the telegraph when we should be talking about how we communicate. Maybe we are talking about books when we should be talking about stories.

Stories are not going to die. Stories have been around since Homer told the Odyssey to anyone who would sit down and listen. (And were people outraged later, when print came along, reducing that once-living epic to a fixed version of itself, subject only to minor word changes in its infinite translations?)

Stories keep us up at night, turning the pages (or maybe scrolling the screens) to find out what happens to a character we just met only a few hundred pages ago, a character that reminds us so much of ourselves that in her choices we see our own weakness and in her consequences we see our own narrowly-missed (or once-lived) fate. Stories teach us what we didn’t know about other people (that’s why she acts that way! that’s what he meant!). They teach us that some things we never thought of might be entirely possible, or even normal. Often, they teach us that what we thought weird about ourselves is normal, too. (I think that’s what most of the YA and MG genres are all about, aren’t they? Perhaps that’s why I like them so much!)

I’m curious—are you excited about the future of books you can interact with? Of carrying 1000 books in a small case on the plane with you? Or are you holding onto the past like I am, just a little bit longer? Please let me know! I read a blog recently that said the best Christmas present you can give a blogger is comments, and it’s so true! Let me know what you are thinking!

4 Comments to “The immortal story”

  1. Really? Would’ve been a lot cheaper than that blender.

  2. I’m sorry Wendy, I’m terribly behind on everything, including commenting on blogs but here are my thoughts: I live up here in Boston, not far from MIT. In my late twenties I befriended a group of MIT guys who were working on a cutting edge idea (this is more than 10 years ago mind you) that would replace paper, their nascent company was called e-Ink. Their idea is very much what the Kindle and Nook are today.

    Things are changing fast.

    My bibliophile mother and her book collecting husband could not exist without books in their lives yet she just got a Kindle for Christmas. Luckily for her husband, Kindles aren’t really collectibles.You can’t find first editions and rare, antique books on them so he’ll continue to have the real deal on his shelves.

    Recently, I’ve met several writers like ourselves who have ventured into e-publishing and the $0.99 book. Now that trend is taking a turn to the $2.99 book. The tablets are creating a new field of publishing opportunities but it will be several generations yet before we birth one that prefers an e-book over the real, tangible, weighted pleasure of a paper book. I for one can’t even edit or proofread large volumes of text unless it’s printed out and I can sit, curled up, reading through its pages.

    My vote’s for paper and there I stop.

    • I will admit to asking for (and receiving) the HP hardcover box set for Christmas. It’s completely impractical in this day and age, but ooooh, was I excited to crack open the cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and start reading…I love the beauty and weight of the books, and I think my husband was worried I might not come up for air until after the seventh one had been closed. 🙂

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