Putting E-Books On The Scale

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New York — I have survived my first CES and now that I’m back in town, I wanted to take a minute to share something that I’ve been thinking about for a few days. Wednesday morning was my first chance to actually hold and use one of Sony’s E-Readers. I know I’m a bit behind the times because this product was actually introduced at last year’s show, but I think it is such an impressive gadget that it deserves some more attention.

The product caught my interest because I came to the Sony booth in the middle of a presentation that was being made on its Backstage Theater. The session was called “The e-book Experience” and it featured commentary from authors Warren Adler and Nick Taylor. The two shared their feelings on the product. Unsurprisingly, they were both very supportive (one assumes they wouldn’t have been invited to speak otherwise!)

Towards the end, the floor was opened up to questions from the audience and one person asked if the authors thought that the technology would lead to a change in the way writers write as authors become more aware of the new mediums on which their stories will be read.

Adler answered that he thought there would be a slow change. He said the he thinks “a simplicity will creep in” to the writing style as authors become more conscious of the new formats. He said that he thought that many authors might lean towards the Hemingway model of using simple declarative sentences over time and that there’s a chance that there will be less of the lyrical writing style “that is our tradition” in the future.

He later added that while he thought the style might change, “I don’t think the [idea of the] story will go out of style… we will continue to be inspired by stories.”

I thought I would share this with you because I think it is an interesting question. I wonder what kind of changes, if any, will actually result from the evolution of the way we read. I realize that in many ways we already see changes in other forms of content as a result of technological intervention. For example, as news has moved online and on television there has been a noticeable movement towards simplifying the way it is reported in order to keep pace with both the new ways people choose to ingest their information and the time in which they have to absorb it.

I think many would agree though, that the novel and other types of books in general are different animals. Reading books is still a largely escapist luxury and I don’t know that many people would want the nature of their arguably oldest traditional form of leisure to be corrupted and changed in the same way those other forms of reading material and information has.

I guess it all really comes down to a personal, and on a larger-scale, societal question about how much of a sacrifice we’re willing to make in the name of convenience.

For now, I would say that I am a proponent of products like the E-Reader because I do appreciate the convenient aspects, but I will surely be disappointed if the product genre leads to a disintegration of the quality of the literature and other forms of material being produced for it.

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