Is the Kindle the next stage in Literary Evolution?

 

A Brief History of Literature and Books through the ages.

imageWriting began between the 7th and 4th millennium BC, first with picture based mnemonics which developed into pictograms and hieroglyphics, culminating in the written word. Stone tablets, bones and bronze were engraved with messages, words and history to be passed down the generations.

 

The Chinese brushed words onto silk, India onto dried palm leaves and many other civilizations used any receptive material to pen/carve/scribe their message.

The Chinese are reputed to be the first peoples to take wood and bamboo and form pages into a book form.

The Egyptians invented papyrus and used this pliable material along and marked it for others to see. Papyrus was used to form scrolls, some many metres long and civilization now had a portable light format of transporting words. (The first documented use of Papyrus was approximately 2400BC)

Parchment made from animal skins, became more widely used and replaced papyrus around 3rd century BC as a more durable form of preserving writing.

Between the 2nd and 4th Century, the use of scrolls diminished and a collection of sheets joined at the back were used, creating what we think of today as the book.

 

From Early to Modern

imageThe process of scribing books, which in some cases could take years continued on into the industrial age of the book with the inventing of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg.

The printing press revolutionized writing. Books stopped being a single object and became something which could be reprinted on request. The cost of producing a book was vastly reduced due to the new process.

 

Since the printing press, books became more and more readily available. Libraries which were the privilege of kings and gentry became popular and flourished, allowing the mere mortals access to books.

The first recorded public library which allowed access to people who were not a member of a college or society was Francis Trigge Chained Library in Grantham, Lincolnshire in 1598. This can surely be seen as the prototype of the modern public library.

 

Technology Takes Hold

imageThe typewriter allowed people to write their own words, and produce quality that could not have been achieved without the need for a printing press.

Computing in the 1970’s and the invention of the home computer, word processing packages and home printers have brought us smack up to date.

People can now sit at home, typing away creating characters, galaxies, orcs, goblins and love stories to keep the rest of us entertained.

Technology Takes Over.

imageE-Readers although had a low take up initially have become a worldwide phenomenon.

People today still scoff at the Kindle, the Nook and all the other E-Readers out there, stating that they will never replace the book.

 

There are a list of pros and cons about the kindle, which I have blogged about before entitled “The Kindle – Only for Nerds?” But today I want to look at the Evolution of Literatureand how I think that E-Readers are the next step on the evolutionary ladder of technology.

 

Evolution

Books have become longer. While in the past there are some colossal epics (War and Peace for example!) books, tended to be a lot shorter than they are today. The average for a first time novel in the 1950’s was circa 50-60k words, where today it is probably closer to 70-90k words, and the reason for this is simply we are able to publish longer works. The cost differential is minimal, and the reader gets the feeling of value for money, as the book looks and feels thicker.

imageBooks in the 18th and 19th century were still expensive, and many novels and stories were included in Christmas anthologies or bumper story books.

The first Sherlock Holmes Novel “A Study in Scarlet” was published is Beetons Christmas Annual in 1887 and is approximately 40k words!

 

In the early part of the 20th century, there were many magazines which contained collections of short stories, or serialized novels. They were genre specific, whether it be Science fiction, Fantasy or Horror these seemed to be the stomping ground where new authors would cut their teeth, learning their trade, and work upwards until they could get the nod from a publisher on that novel they had been working on.

Short stories have for many years lost favour with the reader, they do not want to pay £5 for a magazine of short stories when they can get a meaty book for £7.99 to get their teeth into.

This is where the E-Reader has come into its own. People are reading short stories again!

Amazon is amuck with penned works by young and new writers, which would in all reality not have seen the light of day in a pre-electronic readership.

Sites such as Smashwords and Amazongive new and budding authors a place where they can release their words onto a public which they would not have had access to in years gone by.

Authors can now self-publish their works, garnering profit for themselves, building up a healthy fan base that are able to interact with their author, follow their blog, and beg for the next release.

People generally don’t begrudge dropping £0.99 for a story which will keep them entertained for an hour (You can’t get a bottle of juice for that!)

Books competitively priced at £1.99 £3.99 represent something less than a ticket to the cinema, and will provide longer entertainment than the movie would last.

While there is a discernible and logical argument that the glut of self-published authors is leading to a deterioration of the quality of works available, we must be able to adopt an onus on our own quality checking.

Most EBooks offer samples, which you should download, this will allow you to read the first few chapters, checking to see that it does in fact warrant the amount you are about to pay.

I think we all could admit we have all read a few stinkers since we learnt to read. I have thrown (literally) many books across the room after getting to the end and finding a cop out author has decided to just let the book die on its rear end.

When I read a book, whether it is paper or on screen I am transported to the author’s world. I do not notice what it is written on. The only thing I smell is what the author is describing, I feel what the author tells me to feel. In other words I am submerged into the story.

Conclusion

I am excited about technology. I am not a geek, or a brand loving technophile. I just love the best product, which does what I need it to do, when I need it too, and satisfies my thirst to live in distant lands, exotic worlds and who lets me escape my current life.

Novels are wonderful things and in some cases colossal epics that you can submerge yourself into for weeks on end are heavenly. But sometimes you want a quick hit, something to relieve the boredom, and short snappy piece of work which you can use to escape the daily grind for an hour.

And the short story is that. And the E-reader is the medium of choice.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Is the Kindle the next stage in Literary Evolution?

  1. Pingback: E-Book sales up 54% for 2011 in United Kingdom. | Looking Over My Shoulder

  2. I have a Nook from Barnes & Noble. I like it, but I still mostly read physical books. I waffle on the issue of self publishing vs. publishing houses. I just think it depends on the author. Some authors will benefit from the editorial process and the marketing expertise of a publishing house.

    I think other authors (short story is one genre you mentioned) may benefit from the ability to self publish. I guess time will tell.

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