Friday, January 22, 2010

What Lies Ahead

I wrote recently, on another blog, that despite my best efforts, I'm starting to feel like a literary dinosaur, or maybe like a forty-year-old size 10 feels in Hollywood. Why? Because the world of books as I know it is changing.

My hat is off to Stephanie Meyer and J. K. Rowling but, frankly, I don't have any interest in reading OR writing about witches or vampires. I like to read and write about normal people with normal lifestyles. (Well, actually, I like to read and write about Southern people with Southern lifestyles which, to some, is weirder than vampires, but that's only if you didn't grow up eating grits and collards. Not together, mind you; that would be weird.) I appreciate an old Star Trek episode as much as anyone, but when it comes to literature, I like my plots to revolve around familiar things and my characters to come from Planet Earth. (Okay, I admit that Douglas Adams did lure me into paranormal places and I enjoyed it, so I get points for being a little flexible.)

Furthermore, I do not want to cozy up with a Kindle; I want to curl up with a book. I get at least one e-mail a day from Amazon telling me how wonderful the Kindle is. Maybe so, but I'm not interested. I like my books to come with pages and covers and pictures and blurbs that help me decide if I'm going to invest myself in that story or not. I like to walk by and touch old favorites on my bookshelves and remember the first time I read them, or how significant they've been in my life. Some of those books I loved as a child wound up in the hands of my children and I am eagerly and carefully preserving them for my grandchildren; what joy!

In my wildest dreams, I can't envision a world with no books. Is it possible to have the same relationship with a cold, hard, soulless techno-toy as one has with a beautiful first edition? I think not. Are turned-down corners and beautiful bookmarks destined to go the way of the formal dining room: fondly remembered but rarely used? One of the sillier justifications I keep hearing for the Kindle is that it can store text for up to a thousand books. Since the average person reads fewer than four books a year, that "benefit" seems a tad overblown--kind of like calling up a 747 to go buy a gallon of milk.

It was inevitable that technology was going to impact the world of publishing, and I'm certainly enjoying some of that impact: I wouldn't think of embarking on a road trip without a book on CD, and I most assuredly would not want to go back to creating my manuscripts on a typewriter. But it makes me sad to think that some toddler in 2050 may never get to Pat the Bunny or ask Where's Spot? and find him. It makes me even sadder to think that a generation raised on shape-shifters and warlocks might dismiss Huck Finn or Anne Shirley as hopelessly dull in comparison.

I'm trying to be open-minded, but here's the bottom line: I'd take a REAL Trixie Belden over a virtual Top 10 any day of the week!


Nancy Simpson said...

I agree with you, Jayne. I do not want to live in a world without books. I so agree with this post. Thanks.

There will always be real books.

And I get crazy thoughts, like the best revenge is

write a book.

Glenda Council Beall said...

You speak for me, Jayne, and just today someone told me he didn't read any more because he couldn't find books that were of interest to an older man.
I can't seem to create any interest for vampires or aliens or things like that.
What happened to good stories about real people. I have learned that real people here on this earth have lived some of the most interesting and challenging lives and no one will ever write about them or make a movie about them, but those stories would be in the top ten of my book lists.

Anonymous said...

As one of the younger generations who also appreciates fantasy, vampires and adventure books, those can be some good reading. Sometimes, they do have good lessons, too. But what is more amusing to me are the stories of real people in real times and in real situations.

Like the book, Chicken Soup for a Mother's Soul, I would surely treasure that book than other fantasy adventure books (my husband will surely be unhappy to know that!-he love those books!).

My family loves to read books. Though I can read some books as eBooks, it will always be nice to curl up with a book that you love. It's nice to feel the hardbound and texture of the pages.

Thanks Jayne for your comment and it's an honor to see your comment on my blog! I love that prayer! I have shared that prayer to my friends. Thank you and God bless!