Hugh Mcguire gave a talk to TED (the lecture series, nit the talking teddy bear) a while back. His subject was the changing nature of the publishing industry. He speculates that e-books and print books will soon be joined by (and eventually eclipsed by) web-books. You can watch the video for the details.
He may be right, but I see some problems if his prediction comes true. Web-books sounds like they would work well for non-fiction, textbooks, and religious texts. The integration of photos, maps, graphs, etc would be a great addition to these types of books. But what about novels? If we really wanted pictures, wouldn’t novels already have them?
Fiction is about imagination. Linking to the image of a character or setting would not only hinder the reader from forming their own version of these thing in her mind, it would interrupt the flow of words and intrude upon the ‘realty’ the author worked so hard to create. After all, if we wanted a story ‘shown’ to us, we’d wait for the movie. I think this type of book would lead to lazy writers and less imaginative readers.
The other thing Hugh mentioned was the ability for everyone who reads a book to post comments for everyone else to see. I may be wrong, but this sounds like chaos. Are we really gonna turn Moby Dick and War and Peace into Wikipedia. There’s a reason e-books are so similar to print books…We love them. Reading is a very personal experience. We bond with the books we read (at least the ones we like). I’m sure many of you (like me) have stacks of tomes that we read long ago but can’t bring ourselves to toss out. Come on, admit it. You know you do.
I think e-books are safe for a while. At least the novels anyway. So download those e-books you’ve been waiting to read. Curl up on the couch with a blanket and a hot mug of cocoa on a rainy day. And read to your heart’s content.