By: Joslyn Lang
With a twist on the general perspective of Ebooks, Paul Mason speaks to what publishers and authors are really up against in an article from The Guardian. The article, “Ebooks are changing the way we read and the way novelists write”, goes into detail about how the invention of the Ebook is impacting author’s and reader’s attention span. The link for the article can be found here:http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/10/ebooks-are-changing-the-way-we-read-and-the-way-novelists-write
Many people from the previous generation, before eBooks were invented, can recall books that changed their lives in some way or another. They can recall certain passages from books and how those passages or quotes seem to “live in the chunks of those pages,” as Mason points out. Mason reminisced on those books and was reminded with the paperback versions of the text, he can find the passage where the hero in the story loses the girl or where the epitome of freedom was created temporarily in Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate. For that moment, when he looks at a book, he can pinpoint where these moments exist in the physical container of the book. For me, I remember timelessly reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and immersing myself in the stories about a fantasy world, where a little girl like I was tried to make sense of the world around her. However, most of us can agree with Mason when he discusses the present day Ebook. Are we immersed in the Ebook the same way that we are with the physical book? The way we read these physical books countless times and grasped the feeling of immersiveness is slowly dying. Many people today have stopped buying physical copies of books altogether, and rely on their e-reader to reread passages in some of their favorite books due to circumstances of cost, accessibility, and convenience.
Mason then turns to the question of what Ebook reading is doing to the way that we read. Since millions of people around the world read electronically one way or another. He questions something many people may not have speculated before, will authors be affected by this change and adjust the way that they write? In a survey on the change in reading patterns due to digital publishing by Naomi Baron, Naomi finds out that people today read to summarize. They don’t fully read the article. In no surprise the way we read forms an “F” pattern. We read the first few lines, skim down to the middle, read a little more, and then move to the next part. The style continues with most forms of writing, even academia. I can attest to this as a literature student in college, where I found myself skimming anything from the literary canon to Buzzfeed.
The cause of this transformation from reading line to line to this “F” style can give its credit, not to the Ebook and its searchable text, but to the devices we read them on today that are used for more than just reading. Baron reports that a large percentage of young readers read books on their cellphones or iPads, where many distractions such as text messages, email, the internet, and social media are also present. Because of this, all major publishers have reacted to try experiments of shorter books that are e-read only, while some have proved to be unsuccessful. Furthermore, an adverse reaction has happened among authors too, not just against the e-readers and the reader’s new, short attention span. The impact of this is that some authors are turning towards creating what will be a “good read” with easygoing writing that is revolved around a captivating plot, rather than a “work of art” as Mason indicates from American novelist, Joanna Scott.
While authors may complain that this is where the reading world is pointing towards, Mason disagrees and states that in some ways we are being smarter readers by utilizing tools that are created within the Ebook and online resources, that we are not able to use just by print, such as looking at the highlighting share tool that shows what other readers find interesting or important. While this could be out of laziness, Mason views it as more of a “wiser learning strategy”.
Since we have all of these tools and resources that change the way we read in many ways, Mason believes that literary academic value them. For example, Wikipedia, although, sometimes referred to as a non-reliable source, gives us wisdom shared among people, something that didn’t exist before the digital age of reading. I also agree with this, since I feel that being able to view links and videos associated with the text can be of great value. Instead of people being worried about the type of literature or information that is being published, what people should be concerned about is immersiveness. Even though we may read differently than we did in the 20th century, a new relationship between the reader and writer is becoming clearer in the present day. Mason concludes that pre-digital people had a “single self” while digital people have “multiple selves”. The difference between the two is that pre-digital people hoped to come out a better person by immersing themselves into a print, literary canon. While the digital self shares this love for finding something in a book to become a better person, it just a little more temporary and provisional.
To further delve, pre-digital readers read novels because being immersed in a book is exciting. It was fun to connect with the protagonist and to live in the literary world that was far better at the time than anything going on in the outside world. To readers today, they have to battle between this book world and whatever is happening on their electronic devices, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, texting, etc. The pre-digital world did not have to fight this battle, because it did not exist. Life itself with technology is changing, and at a rapid rate. What people should not be worried about is that people will stop reading or that reading is changing from the previous way that we read before e-readers. The basic element that authors should be concerned about is immersiveness.