Sunday, June 24, 2012

S. Evan Townsend

Today's guest is S. Evan Townsend, author of riveting novels - "Rock Killer", "Agent of Artifice" and "Hammer of Thor". I've read and enjoyed all of Townsend's books. To read their reviews, visit Dellani's Choice.



Whither Books

Two phenomena are happening simultaneously in our society and it's going to be interesting to see what happens. Both are thanks to technology and both are conflicting with the other.

The first phenomenon is it is easier, cheaper, and faster to write, edit, and publish a book. I have no idea how much discipline it took to write a novel on a typewriter without spell check to catch typos and the ease of editing and re-writing and moving text around. Then with HP's print on demand technology replacing expensive off-set printing for producing books, its relatively inexpensive to self-publish or start a small-press publishing house. And with ebook technology, it is free if you do all the formatting work. This has caused an explosion of new books on the market (according to Amazon, there's something like one million books available for the Kindle). The problem for the writer/publisher is how to stand out in that crowd.

The other phenomenon that is happening is I believe people, especially young people, are becoming less interested in reading. When you can download movies onto your iPhone or Kindle Fire why do you need to read? I think we are becoming more of a visual society, which started with the invention of the motion picture, accelerated with television, and is now at warp drive with the internet, streaming content, and smart gadget technology.

So where does that leave book authors? It's easier than ever to get a book published (selling it is another matter) but there is a dwindling audience for books. I've been told by a publicist that the people who read books the most are women aged 40 and up. And they are getting older and will all die some day. Maybe with Harry Potter the so called Millennial Generation will rediscover reading. But they are going to want to read it on their contact lens interface.

I believe the purpose of books is to make memory permanent. You no longer have to go to the village elder to learn. That memory might be organic chemistry or the fevered results of a writer's imagination. But in any case, once it's published, it's permanent. If an civilization-killing virus hits, the lucky immune survivors are not going to be looking for a kindle but for books to rebuild their civilization on. As much as I hate government interference in the free market, maybe there should be a law that all books need to have at least one paper copy printed, just in case.

It will be interesting to see what happens to physical, paper books in the future. Will they become as anachronistic as the buggy whip? Or will people still want them? It's not very impressive to hold up an electronic gadget and say "I've read all these books" but point to a book case stuffed with paperbacks and hard covers and say, "I've read all those books" is much more impressive. That is, if reading impresses anyone in the future.  

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