“Any of us that love to read would agree that we love to hold a real book in our hands” ~ Scott Biddulph of Two Drops of Ink
The future of books has for more than a few years been an open question, there have been predictions about the collapse of the book industry for quite some time, yet almost every-time we think we have seen it’s death knell the printed book gets a fresh lease of life. I am currently seeking a publisher for my novel, whose working title is “Breaking the Sins of Our Past” and every new publisher I look at seems to be half way between the printed book and the e-book.
It will always be clear to my mind an e-book does not have the same look and feel as holding a real book does, the effort to turn the page is mighty, it signals to the writer (albeit they are not present) that we have taken the trouble to read every word on the page and have claimed victory over page 139, before moving on to page 140 and starting the challenge all over again. Turning that page doesn’t mean we have understood everything the writer said, we may have had to battle with some concepts (especially when the book is discussing one fine point of a new theory we seek to understand). I would prefer my novel become a real book, but I also have to be a realist and understand that e-publication may be where I attain my first sale, but then I ask the question how would an author sign an e-book? Arguably another way the e-book degrades the reading experience.
Commuting on public transit, or when flying half way around the world there is a distinct advantage offered by the e-book, you can take your entire library without breaking the scales at the check-in desk. Over the past few years we have seen onslaught of eReaders apps for the specialist readers, computer, Android or Apple tablet device, or smart phone and I have to say that I have spent more than a few hours in book and electronic stores looking at the capabilities of each tool on offer.
99% of my reading is non-fiction and one aspect of a non-fiction book is that it is rarely read in a linear way, I will read a chapter titled “From de Vinci to the Wright Brothers” today because I am interested in finding out more about the birth of flight for a writing project I am working on but it may be years before I read the rest of the book, this is particularly true for scientific or professional books and in some regards such reading lends itself more to the e-book, especially if you have an App that can allow you to search through your entire library for a particular concept, but hey, guess what? Most eReaders are not capable of performing such searches.
Another thing I have done when reading a factual book is highlight things the author says and sometimes I may use yellow or orange to indicate important things, a pink shade for any statement I disagree with and a green shade if they make a statement I agree profusely with. I wanted to see if this were possible with eReader software and have to say most fall far short of my desires, but of course as soon as I publish this one reader will post a comment stating they have the ideal reader that does everything I desire. My point is that if I highlight something I can come back to it years later and retrace my thoughts about the book, I should be able to do more with eReader software, for example search everything about technology that discusses robotics and combine that with a search of everything about law for the same subject, this would make a powerful research tool.
The truth is it may take time for the software to catch up with my desires, especially as no eReader software company has ever asked what functionality I desire, the truth is these apps will improve with time. The challenge for the writer is one over which site and format will provide the widest reach but again that question is a moving target as the tools become more adaptable and widely used. At some point in the future I do perceive the possibility of carrying around a massive library of e-books with me on a tablet, although I am not sure I relish the prospect of purchasing everything in my collection again in an electronic format, it is a similar problem faced by the CD, cassette or 8-track tape, or Vinyl album. Ultimately I do not see books as disappearing altogether.
Ta a large extent the biggest challenge in the future is the question self-published versus professionally published works. Although there are some professionally written self-published books and e-books it is true to say that all too many are plagued with errors.
Buy Peter B. Giblett a coffee as a thank you for this article.