Tag Archives: debate

The Great eBook Debate – launch of Isobelle Carmody’s Greylands as an ebook

Reposted from Melbourne High School Library blog.

A brilliant idea to build up to a launch of any sort is to make something happen before it. Even more brilliant is to bring all sorts of interesting people to the party and allow them to say something as creatively as they wish. Open this up to everyone else and you have The Great ebook debate on a website that was designed to self destruct within a month as an elaborate countdown to the launch of Isobelle Carmody’s much loved Greylands.

Isobelle explains:

An online launch seems to me the most divinely apt way to relaunch Greylands as an eBook. It was always one of my personal favorites among the books I have written, for reasons you will discover here, as the days pass, but it was out of print. Now books have always gone out of print and authors have always accepted they must, unless they rose into the heavens as classics. But in this brave new world of eBooks, there is no longer any need for any book to go out of print. Cyberspace is the library of the infinite.

In a strange twist of fate, following Isobelle’s gracious contribution to my students’ blog, I was honoured as one of the people contributing to the ebook debate. I pulled out my grandmother’s gorgeous autograph book, falling apart but full of exquisitely drawn illustrations and original poetry in Russian and German, and mused on what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained in terms of physical and digital resources. You can read it here if you are so inclined.

What is definitely worth reading is the line-up of authors and other interesting people who have unique perspectives about ebooks versus traditional print books. Guest writers are featured each week, and the resulting discussions in the comment sections are worth reading. But why read when you can contribute your views and enter into the debate yourself.

This week’s guest blogger is Gary Crew whose post is entitled The StorymakerHot off the press and already attracting comments, Gary joins the list of writers which includes Judith RidgeVirginia LowePaul CollinsRichard HarlandNick BlandSophie Masson – to name only a few.

The only thing I don’t like about this whole enterprise is the fact that it will disappear very soon. It’s such a shame when there’s so much good stuff which should really be published, perhaps even as hardcopy, or even as an emagazine – what do you think?

Go on, have a look before it’s too late.

Thanks Isobelle.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/43377736 w=400&h=300]

Can intelligent literature survive in the digital age?

The Independent featured an article with this poignant question – can intelligent literature survive in the digital age? As the article says, ‘Is the paper-and-ink book heading the way of the papyrus scroll?’ This is indeed a question worth devoting more than a couple of minutes to.

The crucial question is – whether all our online reading – the fragmented, stylistically-challenged emails and microblogging – has taken its toll on our attention span? Nicholas Carr of ‘Is Google making us stupid?’ fame has added to the debate by claiming that the internet is responsible for his downward spiral in longterm concentration: ‘Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.’

Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, claims he used to be a voracious reader, but has now stopped reading books altogether. Is the internet to blame? Other people quoted in this article admit that they are now unable to concentrate on more than a couple of paragraphs at a time, and that they skim read, rather than read and think deeply.

A recently published study of online research habits , conducted by scholars from University College London’ claims the following:

‘It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.’ Still, the article does maintain that we are reading more now than when television was the preferred (only?) medium. Personally, I find it difficult not to skip around when links abound and I’m torn between too many tantalising directions.

Carr supports this behaviour with the following observation:
‘When the Net absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the Net’s image. It injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. A new e-mail message, for instance, may announce its arrival as we’re glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper’s site. The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.’

But is this fear of change typical of the fear each generation experiences?
‘In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.’ That may be so, but in today’s ‘information age’, it would be foolish to try to carry all the knowledge we read inside our heads, especially when access is so easy.

If the internet and Google are wired for quick knowledge-access, then surely, we realise that we don’t just read for knowledge. We read fiction, for example, as we regard art, to enter into a transformed, deeper(?) reality; to savour language and perceptions; to gain insight into the human condition; to gain moral, social and philosophical truths; to experience many things besides.
Are we losing/have we lost something in our move to 21st century literacies? Is it a matter of a lost language or genetic traces that will never be repaired? Even avid readers will necessarily read less traditional, hard-copy literature, if only because they are also keeping up with blogs, wikis and RSS feeds? Are we becoming ‘pancake people’, as the playwright, Richard Foreman, suggests?

Now, according to The Independent, many serious writers complain that challenging fiction doesn’t appeal – “difficult” novels don’t sell. To sell now, ‘books evidently need to be big on plot and incident, short on interior monologue.’ What are the consequences for teachers and librarians, trying to encourage young people to read? Are we trying to keep grandma alive? And besides, if we admit it, our own reading patterns are changing to some extent. And yet, websites that give exposure to books can only increase readership. Just think about all the literature you might be tempted to read after reading somebody’s passionate review or after searching Google Book Search.

If only you had the time or could get off the internet!

Why Young Adult?

New York books

Originally uploaded by tsheko

Read Alert has a fascinating debate about the place of the Young Adult label in fiction. To whet your appetite, here’s a section of what Frank Cottrell Boyce says:

‘It used to be the case that you moved on from children’s fiction to adult fiction, from The Owl Service, maybe, to Catcher in the Rye. There were, of course, some adult authors who were more fashionable with teenage readers than others – Salinger, Vonnegut, Maya Angelou. But these were chosen by teenagers themselves from the vast world of books. Some time ago, someone saw that trend and turned it into a demographic. Fortunes were made but something crucial was lost. We have already ghettoised teenagers’ tastes in music, in clothes and – God forgive us – in food. Can’t we at least let them share our reading? Is there anything more depressing than the sight of a “young adult” bookshelf in the corner of the shop’.

Read the string of comments for a satisfying debate on the issue of Young Adult fiction – is the category YA ‘ghettoising’ or ‘the most flexible, challenging and dynamic genre in publishing’?