Friday, 23 November 2012

Books in the future by Keren David



One over-flowing bookshelf..
My house is full of books. Seven bookcases, over-stuffed and spilling over. Bags of paperbacks waiting to go to the charity shop.

 In the attic there are three packing cases full of books that went into storage in 1999 when we moved to Amsterdam, and haven’t been unpacked since we returned. They’ve been joined by other boxes of books that we don’t want to throw out, but had to be moved when we tried to impose order. Sometimes I feel as though the books are breeding, multiplying silently, taking over the house by stealth.

I doubt my children will have a house like this. Their books will live in e-readers and tablets. Reading will be more private, more portable. Their homes will be a lot tidier, and moving will be considerably easier.

Choosing books will be different too. They'll have fewer opportunities to browse in shops and libraries. Instead, expertise and criticism will move online.  If the kindle charts are anything to go by, then books will be sold for pennies, with authors hoping to make money by selling in bulk.

Some of these things worry and frighten me -  as a writer.  I hate the idea of books ceasing to exist as physical entities. Yet, as the owner of an e-reader, I prefer having books that I can find and carry around. I think my house would be a nicer place to live in without toppling piles of books in every room.

And I’m excited by the possibilities that e-books can bring. I love the idea of adding music, film, information, interviews and other extras to my books. I’m intrigued by the idea that a  basic book might sell for £1, but the enhanced version would be sold (perhaps to existing fans) for a higher price.

Lydia Syson’s excellent debut, A World Between Us, published by HotKey is the first example I’ve seen of the books  that I dream of. It’s an epic romance set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. (I should declare an interest here, Lydia and I belong to the same writing group and I consider myself a proud auntie to her love-crossed characters, Felix, Nat and George)
The paperback is a thing of beauty, with its 30s poster style cover. But the enhanced ebook is really special. It contains fascinating background information about the rise of the Blackshirts in London, the International volunteers who fought in Spain,interviews with Lydia,  historians and (very movingly) a veteran.  It’s interesting, educational and it offers  much more than is possible in a conventional book. It's a format that fits historical books perfectly, but could be applied to many others.
Try it, think about how the concept could be used for the books you write, and the books you love, and some of your fears about the future might just fade away.



catdownunder said...

Our many bookshelves are double and triple stacked but I can put my paw on almost anything without too much trouble. Our books get used constantly.
I downloaded the Kindle file so I could read Nicola Morgan's Write a Great Synopsis and a couple of other non-fiction books. Having to read books like that though infuriates me. They are tools to be used. Mine reference books are veritable hedgehogs of paper strips and I tend to flip backwards and forwards frequently, especially using a foreign language dictionary. It is just not possible to use an e-reader of any sort in the same way. I hope real books never disappear!

Farah Mendlesohn said...

You have space on your shelves! look! Over there! there are books *leaning*.

Seriously: we have 12k books, moved "for the sake of the books" and are currently wondering where we can fit more shelves.

Thank you for the book rec. I wrote my thesis on Quaker relief work in the Spanish Civil War.

JO said...

How I love other people's bookshelves ... that moment when they go out to make the coffee and you have a browse ... bliss!

madwippitt said...

Love the other interesting things sharing your shelves too - old London bridge appears to have set up shop along the top of one bookcase and a rocking horse duck (weird!) taken up residence on another shelf.
Browsing other people's shelves is fun - but what's the etiquette going to be when everything is stuffed on a Kindle? Should the host leave it casually lying around? Should the guest ask politely if they can browse through it or surreptitiously sidle over and hope not to get caught? And what a bummer if you find something you'd like to borrow - although a blessing perhaps from the host's point of view as at least books won't go walkies forever with people who fail to return them ...

Susan Price said...

Catdownunder - you can put 'bookmarks' into a kindle, so you can very quickly find any bit you want again. You can add your own notes too.

Keren David said...

@madwippet They are Dutch houses! KLM used to give china houses full of alcohol to business class travellers and my husband did a lot of travelling. We have two shelves full of them - most still full of the alcohol!

madwippitt said...

Alcohol filled houses on the bookshelves! This gets better and better ... when can I come and browse? ;-)