digitally speaking

I have ordered my eReader…

…and I have a lot to say on the subject: risking boring people to death with it. But that’s for the bloody good reason that, no-one, and by that I mean ‘no-one I know’, realises how important it is to have books available in a digital format on a dedicated device – *mark sighs.  Ok I’ll explain simply. Firstly take music, its primary format is ‘live’ … played by people as a performance. You cannot get any more simplified than a musician playing an instrument. If you did, it wouldn’t be music. Live music is perfect, but its not portable, therefore a portable recorded format is necessary in order for people to enjoy it away from the stage. With me? right I’ll continue…

Now writing…

Books are the primary format of writing. It can’t get any more simplified – otherwise it would move into the realm of ‘storytelling’, which is actually in the same same vein as audio performance and will fall into the ‘music’ category for an audible format. No, books are without doubt the primary format of writing. This is great, however books aren’t portable. Yes, 1, 2 or even 5 are… but 10, 20 or 60 aren’t. ‘but Mark, no-one is going to read 60 or even 10 books in one go!’ … uhh yes they are. Lets take book publishers, or proof readers that will skim through acres of manuscripts searching for the next bestseller, or maybe Uni lecturers that have 60 5,000 word assignments to read through and have a 3hr train journey ahead of them. Better still how about the students that won’t have to carry around a dozen reference books about in order to complete their paper – and don’t even think about reading on a laptop, you’d have to be insane to think that, that is a comfortable experience. Ohh I’m not done, how about people that travel frequently? or those that have a bloody long journey ahead of them, or those that just can’t face reading an unappealing 500 pages of ugly dull text? And its not just me… actually it is ‘just me’, with my millions of diagnosed and undiagnosed dyslexic friends. Lets look at that one a second. The main requirement for someone with reading difficulties to read a book, is formatting – we’re talking, margins, font size, whitespace, number of pages, number of chapters, paragraphs, line and sentence length and so on… even the title and cover can put people off! Remove all of the above (with the exception of sentence length) by using an eReader or similar and suddenly even War and Peace becomes within reach of anyone that can read – no matter how long it may take them. The point is, the formatting of the publication will not put them off trying in the first place. 


How about writers? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get published? About as simple as it is to get a record contract if you’re a musician – 1 in a million. And yes, I know the cream always rises, but that hasn’t stopped millions of bands from recording their own tunes and letting the public decide whether they are worth listening to. Why should the publishing world be allowed to remain an exclusive club? Digital readers will allow the free and easy distribution of novels, plays, scripts and research papers to find anyone and everyone, regardless as to whether a publisher thinks otherwise. 

I haven’t even scratched the surface of ‘short stories’ or ‘poems’ or childrens titles, or the importance of constantly changing, frequently re-read documents – like newspapers, blogs or RSS feeds. Nore have I touched on the eco friendly paperless argument for normally ‘printed and wasted’ documents. 

C’mon – its not rocket science is it? I read all over the net and newspapers about miserable old people complaining about how published / printed books are the essence of society, are the pivot of good education and are the essential bond between parents and children – and I read these sentences, and I believe them too. But there’s so much more about writing than printing out a fixed format document. Books will never die out. Its the primary format remember, all thats being provided is a convenient portable format. And when has a digital conversion of a format ever ‘not’ been a good idea? Sure we might go through a few ‘DRM’ issues and have copyright legalities and even the old Betamax vs VHS war all over again, but the basic principle of a portable digital format is still a winner – and the sooner more and more new and old books are available in this format the better we all will be. 

And I can hear people muttering how this technology won’t reach the masses like I’m claiming because of the costs. A book is under a tenner, whilst an eReader is £200 + the cost of the title. Yes, now it is. But in time it won’t be. just like people can now afford incredible pieces of complex technology wrapped up in a small monthly payment for a mobile phone, or perhaps you’ve forgotten how the once mightily expensive MP3 players can now be bought for less than a tenner? The important thing is, items that are normally printed, are digitised – that’s all I’m stating really. 

Sooo…. the only reason I’m buying an eReader now, is because it effects me directly now. One day, it will effect you directly too, and you will then also find yourself embracing a digital document to read. It may not ever be on a dedicated electronic reader, but it could end up being embedded in the next coffee table you purchase – either way, its coming to a pair of eyeballs within you, whether you like it or not. Because its a good idea, and because the world needs it.


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