Friday, June 22, 2007

Beyond the book ...

My name is Anna Sugden and I am a bookaholic. I love books. Reading them, buying them, collecting them. Hard back, paperback, old and new. Luckily, my husband is a bookaholic too - we have over 20 bookcases in our house and a TBR room!

Apparently, though, we’re a dying breed.

The biggest issue facing our industry, from publisher through to bookseller, is not which genre is hot and which is not. Rather, it is how to convince the younger generation to commit their time and money to reading and books. With so many more options available to them - from the internet to all manner of ever-changing, ever-improving electronic technology and gadgetry (Blu-ray anyone?) - is it any surprise that the humble book struggles to appeal?

Although e-books and audio-books have been around for some time, even they hadn’t really kept up with the times. Recently, thanks to innovators like Apple/iTunes and Sony, providing better listening devices and better readers, and the increasing use of the internet, these alternatives have had a new lease of life breathed into them. Add to that the increasing success of epublishers, like Ellora’s Cave/Cerridwen press and Samhain (who have just signed a deal with Kensington) and things are looking more rosy.

It doesn’t stop there. Recently, publishers have begun to think ‘outside the book’. Both Harlequin and Dorchester have got manga-style lines, hoping to encourage cross-over from those who are hooked on the Japanese graphic novels. And for those addicted to their cell-phones, Harlequin has a download service that sends story instalments direct to your cell-phone daily.

While I think the latter is a great idea, and know plenty of people for whom it would be perfect, it’s not for me. I don’t live on my phone! Nor are e-books. I spend enough time gazing at a screen and it doesn’t seem worth printing them out.

But I could go for manga romance novels - like reading the teen magazines of my youth with the comic strip and photo stories! Plus, it’s still reading and holding a book in my hands. And I certainly enjoy audio books - especially now many are unabridged and with decent actors reading (some romance novels actually have a male and female reader for the different points of view).

Who knows what the future holds. What other ideas publishers and retailers will come up with to keep the market alive and well.

So, imagine there are no more books left in the world (an alien being has zapped them all into outer space). Which new format(s) would you choose to feed your reading habits?


Trish Milburn said...

Gah!! No books? I don't want to even imagine that. But since I'm a great lover of movies and good TV shows, I'd have to find my fix of great stories there. I do like comics, and am particularly enjoying the new Buffy "Season 8" series Joss Whedon is authoring.

Christine Wells said...

A thought-provoking post, Anna. You know, I think I might go for the audio option, which doesn't seem quite as nasty as readers. I just don't like the idea of staring at a screen any more than I have to!

But ah, books. To borrow a Jenny Crusie term, there's just something 'crunchy' about opening a book constructed of paper and cardboard, whether it's shiny and new or musty, old, having passed through many hands on the way to mine. I would grieve very much if paper books became obsolete.

Tawny said...

I ADORE books. I spend so much time on my computer, and do have my handheld as well, but... well, when I read I want a nice book, paper and the feel of it all in my hands.

Audio is okay, but I'm a very non-audial learner, so its mostly just noise to me LOL.

Keira Soleore said...

V.Anna, I'm a dinosaur. If that asteroid that you're predicting ever hits, I'm toast. So, I better get right back to working on my current project and scaring up, er, enticing a publisher, so that I can say I've published a printed BOOK while there are still people left to buy them. :)

Keira Soleore said...

Hey Jo! Loved your blog on the Fog City Divas site on diction.

Buffie said...

I guess I'm an old fashion kind of gal. I don't like to read a book via a computer or blackberry or phone. I just want the real thing -- to crack that book for the first time, to turn the crisp pages, and to dog ear the pages if I want (I know that will start a whole new conversation, but if I buy the book I can dog ear it!!!).

Anna Sugden said...

A-ha, fellow addicts!

It is hard (and scary) to imagine a world without books. I never throw books away ... ever. I donate them (speaking of which, anyone know a good place to donate books?) or pass them on.

But, the younger generation doesn't have the same love of books that we do. Or the same love of reading.

Keira - if this post inspires/threatens you to work harder on your ms for publication, then great! Good luck! Keep us posted.

Buffie - I don't have a hot button about dog-earing pages. Though I know some will. I find I have so many bookmarks from friends, I don't need to.

Caren Crane said...

Buffie, we will not speak of dog-earing (too many years working in the school libraries as a nerdy school girl!).

Anna, I would be so out of luck if there were no more books. I want to immerse myself in the story at my own pace. Audio is okay, but doesn't allow me to pause, put it down, draw a picture in my mind. Movies are fine, for what they are. But you are being shown someone else's vision of the story, not creating your own.

I think, as the mother of a tween, teen and 20-something, that young people are spoon fed images much more than they used to be. Unless they begin reading at a young age, most don't develop the ability to create vivid images from nothing but imagination. What a shame!

Anna Sugden said...

Good point, Caren.

Being so old *grin*, I didn't have the same alternatives to reading that they do today. TV (B&W) was a luxury and we only had limited channels and programming. Radio was fine for music, but not much else. And I grew up in a family that loved to read.

The younger members of our family don't have the same passion that my sister and I do. Or the same attention span when it comes to sitting with a book. Very sad.

danetteb said...

I'm a half-half reader,at least 1 print and 1 ebook a week. I'd be reading ebooks,if prints got zapped,but I'd sure as heck miss my prints.*g*

Anna Sugden said...

How do you read ebooks, Danette? With a reader, print them off, on your computer?

S.Negraval said...

Hello everyone!
Great discussion, and I'll have to say that nothing quite beats the printed word.

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Introducing BookSwim .

Choose from 150,000 titles and expanding. Shipping is entirely on us, ALWAYS.

Hope you check it out!


jo lewis-robertson said...

Glad you enjoyed the post, Kiera.

Anna, I have to say I'm ready to bite the dust and buy a e-book reader! I'm a little scared about it. Old dogs and new tricks, you know. I'd love to hear comments from those who enjoy using one.

jo lewis-robertson said...

Sheesh, okay I DO know that it's "an" before a vowel. LOL.

Anna Sugden said...

Interesting, Jo - what has made you decide to make the leap?

Helen said...

No books I am not sure whether I would cope I am a bit like you Anna book mad I buy them all the time but if there weren't any I would probably go with E books I have a few of those as well.
Have Fun

danetteb said...

Hi Anna,
I read the eBooks on the computer,I read and listen to yahoo music in the background.*g*
Hugs, Danette

Anna Sugden said...

Thanks, Danette - that's interesting!