I saw this first on The Passive Voice blog, but here is an article that caught my eye: Can Salman Rushdie and Substack Revive Serialized Fiction?
Salman Rushdie, the Booker Prize–winning novelist, insists that he is not, like so many media members before him, going to Substack—at least not full-time. He won’t be publishing his next book on the newsletter platform. Instead, he’s taken an advance from the company to fool around with “whatever comes into” his head. This will apparently include a serialized novella. “I think that new technology always makes possible new art forms, and I think literature has not found its new form in this digital age,” Rushdie told The Guardian. “Whatever the new thing is that’s going to arise out of this new world, I don’t think we’ve seen it yet.”
This is all well and good, but here’s the paragraph I specifically noticed:
The second error that these media futurists made was overestimating how vulnerable the book was to digital technology. Many people, when they listen to music, like to jump around between artists: The iPod allowed them to do so seamlessly. Movies are consumed in one two-hour period, and most people don’t know what they want to watch before they sit down on the couch, a problem solved by Netflix. But most people read one book at a time—no one was lugging an entire library to the beach. A Kindle can store thousands of books, but who cares? Having an ocean of literature at your fingertips is neat, but it doesn’t change the time-tested user experience of reading in a dramatic way.
Bolding is mine. This is where I said, Wait, wait! I (usually) read one novel at a time, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t lug an entire library to the beach! I absolutely would! That’s the entire reason I got a Kindle in the first place: so I could take a library with me on vacation!
More than that, I disagree with the author of the linked post that the Kindle re-creates the feel of an actual book. It does not. It’s a lot easier to read an ebook because
- I can blow the print up and don’t need glasses;
- I can read in the dark;
- I can hold the Kindle or phone in one hand without hurting my thumb;
- I can hold the book and turn pages with one hand, either hand, while holding three Flexi-leads in the other hand;
- I can prop the Kindle or phone on the windowsill and read while washing dishes.
ANY of those benefits would make the ebook reading experience both different and better than reading a physical book. Also, ebooks don’t collect dust. (Don’t ask how long it’s been since I dusted.) (I don’t want to think about it.)
Physical books are still vastly superior for
- Cookbooks, or anything with images.
- Graphic novels, for example. I read one graphic novel on my phone. That was quite an interesting experience, but nothing I’d do again.
- Anything with a glossary or index or footnotes that you want to consult frequently.
- Any book you want to flip back and forth within while reading.
In addition to all that, I have to say, I’m surprised anyone can write a column about serializing novels as a new thing and not mention Kindle Vella. Even though I’m not interested in that format personally, I know it’s there.