Sunday, 17 April 2011

A Sunday rant on the digital future for books

Occasionally people will come into England's Lane Books full of awe that a new book shop has opened. 

'You're brave,' they say ominously.

I just smile because I've heard it so many times before, 'Surely all novels are going to be read on something like a Kindle or iPad soon and the printed matter is going to disappear?' 

Since the talk of the digital revolution (or disaster) started, (not long after a similar development in music took place which has seen record shops disappear and music being downloaded for free), the future for the printed matter, be it newspapers or books, has been uncertain. Nobody seems to know what is going to happen, nor how to tackle the provision of digital content at a price, piracy or the preservation of the book form. 

Nor can we agree whether we even need to have tangible books or newspapers if all the same words can be read on a portable device. Wouldn't it be better for the environment if we did away with paper all together?

And more to the point, how is the writer or the journalist going to make money if it's all free online? (Never mind the publisher...) Writers can't go on tour and make money from their art that way. Author readings won't fill stadiums. 

I've heard rumours that journalist work twice the hours these days, keeping their online content up to date, as well as writing the articles in the printed copy, and constantly being 'on duty' online. All for the same money they made two or three years ago. 

As an unpublished writer I can't imagine what it's like to be so wanted and needed as a writer - even on half the previous salary - but I can see that the industry is in turmoil even from my small vantage point in the book shop. Besides, aren't I part of the problem? Here I am on a Sunday morning (when I should be on that beach above) writing my blog - providing content - for free?

I have even gone as far as publishing a whole novel online (it's here folks in case you haven't read it yet). Isn't that wrong, if what we want is writers to get a fair pay for their work?

It's all very confusing. 

In the meantime, however, our little independent bookshop in Northwest London is thriving. It seems people still want to read words in a book form. Some even say they would like both, the digital and the book copy. In my mind that has to be the way to go. If all the legal stuff works and piracy can be effectively policed...but that's another part of the problem and worthy of another blog post all together.


booketta said...

Paper books will always win hands down with me. I can see advantages pf kindles etc, travelling light, plane journeys. Maybe I'm old fashioned but I like to hold a book in my hand.

Mwa said...

I quite like my paper, but then I'm sure I'm also a dinosaur.

Helena Halme said...

I love the feel of books too but worry I may also be a dinosaur...xx

Bird in the Bush said...

I am so glad England's Lane Books continues to flourish... this is a wonderful thing. Pathetically I sit on both sides of the digital/print fence. I have a Kindle and treasure it's size & capacity when travelling with limited baggage allowance, yet nothing will ever stop me rummaging in charity shops for well-loved books in print...
The question is "Can I have my Kindle and read it"?
Bird x

Michelle Trusttum said...

Of all the places to lose oneself, an independent bookshop is one of the best. I stumbled across a treasure in Sydney once that I never wanted to leave. It was a converted terraced house with library like rooms, complete with aged leather arm-chairs, loo tables piled with books, and classical music piped throughout. Bliss! (And yes, I did buy from there.)
You just can't experience an e-book in the same way. Ok on a plane I guess, but no, no thanks.
Books are not only content, but things of beauty in and of themselves.

Imogen said...

When my parents first met (1961), my mother worked in publishing and my father was a studio engineer at Abbey Road. Their first real conversation was a row about his insistance that printed books were going to be out-moded within five years by tape-to-tape recorded audio books. As the years went by he had further theories, all based on the hope/desire/expectation that the latest technology would replace books. Fifty years later, he's yet to be proved right about any of these theories... He was a book lover, incidentally!

PV Lundqvist said...

I love book stores. One of the accidental results of Big Bookstore demise, in the States anyway, is the potential rise of the indie bookstore.

Who wouldn't rather buy books from the owner and fellow reader?

Helena Halme said...

Bird in the Bush, As long as we all want to 'have our Kindle and read it' (wonderfully put!), I believe printed books will survive, be it on a smaller scale. This also ensures that the writers get some money for their words...

Michelle, I completely agree with you - after all internet, TV, film dvd's etc. didn't destroy painting as an art form.

Imogen, your story gives me hope!


Helena Halme said...

PV, I agree wholeheartedly! xx