Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Words speak for themselves

On the day that Amazon announce the launch of an international version of the Kindle, Richard Curtis has an interesting slant on digitial book technology on his blog E-Reads.

According to Curtis, the day is coming - much sooner than we think - when authors will no longer be able to define themselves as creators of literary works. As electronic technology gets more and more sophisticated (thank goodness I no longer have to sell this stuff and keep up to date with it all), the emerging generation of readers will no longer be content to accept text that is not as Curtis describes it, "interactively married to other media", demanding not just words, but video, music and probably bells and whistles too. The definition of author will be far removed Curtis says, from how we currently define it.

The word that Curtis uses to describe this new form of media is "vook" (video + book = "vook") blending traditional books with audio, video and other digital media as described above. Bear in mind as I write that Simon and Schuster are already working with a multi media partner to release such material that can be read or viewed, online or through electronic devices such as an iPhone or iPod.

Does this though mean the death of the book - of course not. Traditional books will I believe always be around, albeit in more limited form. Will the term author need to be re-defined to make way for the emerging technology? No again. It has always been the case with books that the author writes while others perform the various tasks that are necessary to put the book into paper or electronic form ready for publication - illustrators draw pictures, IT people convert the book to PDF or some other format that can be read via these devices, cover designers well, design the cover. None of this detracts from the fact the author wrote the thing. An author then will always be an author, and nothing can take that away.

E-books may well be here to stay, but whether "vooks" will catch on remains to be seen. Personally I find that when I read I need silence and concentration, and having moving images and music on the screen would distract from the experience. Maybe younger people would like this, I wouldn't know to be honest, as there aren't many young people that I know who read anyway - not unless you count Heat magazine as reading !

Todays young may feel that they need this distraction, as it what they are used to and they feel lost without these so-called "must have" devices, but like everything else, eventually it will swing back the other way. Call me old fashioned if you will, but I just do not see how images and background music will add to the reading experience.

The whole point of reading is after all, to read, to learn and to stretch the mind and the imagination. Viewing a video of a book, or about a book may be entertaining, but it is not reading. The idea of reading is to be immersed in the story and lose yourself almost in another world, video cannot help you do this - the only way to get immersed is quite simply, to read. Vooks may be cool, but they do not communicate ideas and information, they do not capture the imagination in a way that only words can. The words should be allowed to speak for themselves in the way that only words can.

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