Wednesday 4 July 2018

When is a book not a book? - Ciaran Murtagh

I’ve recently delivered three stories for a new educational series. They’re fun, charmingly illustrated and I like them a lot. There’s just one problem, they’ll never be books. 

"Please turn off your cell phones and turn on your wireless ebook readers."

This particular publisher has decided to try out a new e-book / online model and because of that, this work will never sit on a book shelf.

I can’t help feeling a little bit sad about that. I knew it was the deal before I signed up, but it only struck me as the work was delivered how much I’ll miss not sticking it in the bookshelf with my other published books. I don’t know about you, but part of the thrill of being an author is to see the physical object – the book.  It’s a moment of validation, you can hand the object to a person and say, ‘I wrote that.’

It’s not the same when it’s sitting on a server somewhere in cyber space. I wonder how many authors would have put pen to paper if they knew that what they were writing would never take physical form. 

I’m not a Luddite. OK I might be a bit. I am aware that times change, but it’s hard to get motivated when you’ll never hold the thing you’re creating. You can’t cuddle a kindle. You can’t sign a tablet. It’s hard to cherish a screen. 

Old Fashioned Toilets Technology Toilet Paper Tissue Ebook E Book Reader Jsh Low  And Amusing Styles

I have many favourite books, they have been with me through thick and thin – the actual book, the physical object – I doubt they’d mean as much to me if they were stored on a Cloud. I know I can access them just as readily, but just like digital photos that remain perpetually on a memory disc, they remain unloved, undeveloped and often, unseen.

I have some romanticised notion of sitting back in my dotage and leafing through the work I did in my younger days and maybe reading the stories to my grandchildren – what!? I’m a writer….  

However, when the book is nothing but a megabyte of data that’s never gonna happen, no matter how many bookshops I visit... 

They’re just words. Whether they’re on a page or a screen, they’re still words. It shouldn’t make a difference, but somehow it really does. 


Penny Dolan said...

Knowing a story is out there somewhere but not in any tangible form is definitely a poignant moment, Ciaran.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I know how you feel, Ciaran, as a writer. BUT - your ebooks won’t go out of print. They won’t sit gathering dust on library shelves and end up being weeded. If they are education titles, kids will be reading them for a long time, unless the information goes out of date. As a writer of spec fic, I’m finding that most markets these days are online only, many of them not even ebook, just web site - and web sites can close down.

Now, THAT is sad!

Sue Purkiss said...

Hm... I use my Kindle a lot. It's great for travelling, and useful that it has its own light. But it's certainly not as lovely as a real book can be. And seeing how other forms of new technology have drifted away, I do wonder if one day the Kindle will too. So I sympathise!

And welcome to Abba!

Rowena House said...

I'm absolutely with you on this. The Word needs to be a physical thing, somehow. I wrote for news agencies when a full-time journalist, and most of our words only existed in e-form, except for ancient ticker-tape type machines in far flung places, except for the few that newspapers printed & acknowledged. Before I left Reuters I printed them all out to prove to myself they had existed. Maybe you could find a printer who'll make you a copy, to show those grandchildren.