Sunday, 26 May 2013

DO BOOKS MATTER?

From as far back as we can trace, people have felt the need to share stories. Wasn't early cave man a forerunner of the fisherman boasting about 'the one that got away'? Imagine a prehistoric hunter with limited language but terrible injuries, posturing about the sabre toothed tiger that 'got away'. The cave man lived to tell the tale. Isn't that 'telling the tale' part of what differentiates us from other species of animal?
We hear a lot about the decline of reading, but I'm not sure that's actually a true picture of what's happening. Because we need stories.
I'm a great one for voicing fears of a 'doom and gloom' vision of  a dystopian future without books. Long before the phenomenal increase in ebooks I was writing about the 21st century version of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 where books become obsolete not through political suppression but simply from people not longer reading; we have the technology to become a post-literate society.
My first series offers a snapshot of what has happened in the world of publishing. When Cut Short first came out, in 2009, I remember an author friend urging me to ask my publisher to bring it out as an ebook. I wasn't quite sure what that meant, but duly passed the message on. Six months later, the ebook appeared. Road Closed followed a similar pattern in 2010. By 2011, with Dead End, the ebook and print book were published on the same day. Since then, with Death Bed in 2012 and Stop Dead and Cold Sacrifice in 2013, the ebook has become available to download six months before the print book is published.
The medium itself is not the key issue. The important question is whether fewer people are reading as a result of this change. That's an impossible question to answer in terms of my own books. What I can tell you is that sales of the ebooks have been phenomenal and I suspect they have reached a far wider audience as a result of reaching Number 1 on iTunes, and amazon, than they would have done had they been published solely as print books. Of course that's anecdotal, and the 'people who know' - (whoever they are, I'm certainly not one of them) - may have another story to tell.
Which brings me back to the point of this post. For several hundred years (how long is that in man's history?) books have provided a medium for sharing stories. I am passionate about books. I love bookshops, libraries, the feel of a new book... but think about a book you have read and loved. What lives on in your mind are the characters, the emotions and insights you experienced while reading, the images of scenes and actions. Books can change us, not because of the feel of the paper, but by their content.
What matters is the story a writer tells.


11 comments:

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

E-books are not going away. That's for sure. A reader can store an entire library on a Kindle, and open any volume in an instant, reaching the favorite chapter or scene wanted instantly. Content can be backed up in multiple places for safekeeping. Until the day of the zombie apocalypse, all literature can be stored safely. :)

Val said...

And I was finally able to buy the first of your books via Amazon. Will be reading it tonight while at my 'outpost'.

Thank you for being able to sell it as an ebook.

Can't wait!

Leigh Russell said...

Yes, Bernard. You can't turn the clock back. People said the television would be the end of reading but sometimes it has the opposite effect. Getting your books on TV is the 'holy grail' for authors these days. Apart from money up front, it boosts sales of books. And certainly my books have reached a far wilder audience thanks to ebooks. It must be the same for all authors.

Anonymous said...

Hope you enjoy it, Val, and read the others too. Thanks for letting me know.

Leigh Russell said...

I seem to have become anonymous... That was me, Val.

Charles Gramlich said...

A favorite quote of mine is; "The story's the thing."

Leigh Russell said...

Yes, Charles. When I'm doing my research, I try to keep to the facts as far as possible, but my fans on the police force for example understand that in fiction sometimes the 'facts' need to be tweaked a little, to serve the story. I'm not writing a text book on police procedure.

Karen said...

I'm a recent convert to Kindle, having argued against getting one for ages - you can't beat holding a 'real' book etc - but I took the Kindle on holiday a couple of weeks ago and read four books while I was away. I finally realised that, as you put so well at the end of your post, it's the content that really counts - in whatever format.

Having said that, I'm looking forward to reading your two 'real' books :o)

Val said...

I understood, I have as many lined up to read as I can!
I read, read ... read. The ebook however doesn't require me to build tons of shelves.
I still carry books around though!

Leigh Russell said...

I haven't got a kindle yet, Karen, but downloaded Cut Short free in iTunes and was impressed with how readable it is. (The format, that is - I already know the book!) I'd hate physical books to disappear, but ebooks are here to stay.
I think there's a place for both. I hope so!

Leigh Russell said...

Yes, ebooks are so convenient, aren't they, Val. for people on the move, they have to be better.