The Lost Art

I am a reader.  I don’t mind how or where I read a book as long as I can lose myself in a story. Reading allows me to escape to another time and place; makes me gasp, cry or laugh; makes me think about how I would act in a similar situation; or takes me on a journey that otherwise I would never have experienced.  Books in all their methods of delivery inform and excite, propel us to action, take us to places we might not otherwise reach and give us insights into other cultures and ways of living.

I come from a family of readers and I’ve always treasured books. My grandfather was a printer and the first thing he’d do when he picked up a book was look at the imprint page and see where it had been printed. Old habits die hard and this quirk of behaviour was passed down to my father and now to me! A lively discussion would often ensue about the printer and whether he, my grandfather, thought they had done a good job or not – usually he thought not!

Books punctuate our lives and shape our view of the world and the books I read when I was young were anchored in the area I grew up in (north of the Lake District in the North of England). I’d spend afternoons looking for Mrs Tiggywinkle and Lucie at Little-Farm and go on adventures inspired by Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons.  Birthdays and Christmases were celebrated with a crisp shiny book token, a bit like winning Charlie’s golden ticket, that could be traded for the next Enid Blyton or Bronte.

Now, with children of my own, it’s lovely to be able to pass on those stories to them, but also share with them a much bigger selection of books from around the world.   There are so many beautiful picture books for them to dive into with incredible illustrations. They can go off on adventures with beasts and dragons, pirates and explorers, and through words and pictures they can also learn about life and loss, the importance of having somewhere to call home and what friendship is all about.  Now as the eldest one embarks on chapter books we are finding out about nannies who are pigs (we want one) and schools for spies.

As a reader of any age the thrill of discovering your next book and author is one of the best things in life. Whether it’s through word-of-mouth, your local bookseller, a blog or you just get lucky, there’s no feeling like it. And that for me is what books are all about – when you open a book and turn to the first page you are on the tarmac, waiting to take off – you are about to be transported to another world. It has the power to leave you emotionally wrung out, or uplifted, it can inspire you, challenge you, or just let you escape from the piles of washing and unmade beds. It’s a magical feeling.

Fiona Hazard began her career in publishing as a production assistant for a legal publisher in London and has since worked in a variety of roles on the editorial side of the business. She joined Hachette Australia in 1999 as Publishing and Production Manager, and was appointed Publishing Director in 2006. Fiona has overall management of Hachette’s Australian publishing list and looks for great stories to package and sell successfully in Australia and internationally, as well as licencing books from the US and UK.

I came to know Fiona first because of the books I had with Lothian, which was bought by Hachette, and more recently, because she wrote to say that Hachette wanted to restore my picture book, Journey from the Centre of the Earth, to Print book form.
I was elated because this is my personal favorite of all the picture books I have done to print form. In fact it was less than a week ago that I got an advance paperback of the book! And for all my love of my kindle and my interest in this eVolution and its creative possibilities, I suspect that knowing your book has become an E book will never be able to complete with the sheer unadulterated delight of holding a new publication in your hands!

12 Responses

    1. Vauny says:

      I agree that one of the best parts of reading is finding new writers, series and genres that you never considered before, and just getting completely sucked in by the story. Ebooks make this feeling more accessible since you can download them from pretty much anywhere.

      • Helen Chamberlin says:

        I agree about finding new writers or new works by favourite writers! The excitement of finding a new author you love and then finding out they have several novels you haven’t read can only be bettered by finding out that an author you adore and thought you had read all of has other works – as happened to me with Jane Austen – I still remember the moment 30 years later!

    2. Sherri Michael says:

      I love the image Fiona painted of readers paused on a tarmac, ready to be whisked away to some wonderful internal space that has been created by words. It does not matter to me whether these words are on a screen or on a printed page – the magic remains the same. EBooks are the next step in the literary and intellectual evolution of mankind. They provide just another alternative means of access and should be embraced, not shunned.

    3. David Dawkins says:

      Your history resonates with my own, but since you, a publisher, don’t mention eBooks I wonder why not. I am not particularly a luddite (even have a mobile ‘phone but it’s only ‘on’ if I want to send), but if I don’t ‘do tablets’ it’s because they don’t fit my lifestyle. I work at a screen and I don’t care to relax with one, and going by V-line to Melb is a chance to think rather than read, but think in a different way from when I write; like the difference between pure and applied science. Do you produce eBooks? If so, what? And are your children exposed to the new age read?

    4. Paul Collins says:

      It’s funny how times have changed, Fiona. We never had a book in the house when I was a kid. One did appear every now and then — a green-spined Penguin mystery by Erle Stanley Gardner, and I distinctly remember wondering what it was doing there. We’d play cards for pennies at night (we only had a b&w TV with one channel in those days). Your family discussed who printed books — a much loftier pass time lol. However, who plays cards and who discusses printing these days? Will there be printing in the not-so-distant future? Some say not. There’s an interesting article at http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57438541-93/how-amazon-is-changing-the-rules-for-books-and-movies/
      where Amazon has some innovative ideas. “We are moving from an age of monarchy to an age of democracy in creating content. There is a role for us to play,” says Amazon. I’d dearly love to return to the days of playing cards at nights with no distraction from the technology of today. I could, of course, become a hermit. Now there’s a thought. Maybe if I ever retire …

    5. Maureen says:

      You discuss passing down books to children and that’s something amazing about stories, in whatever medium… the ability to share and pass them down the generations. This might be a silly question, but how long do ereaders last for approximately and is there any way to archive your book collection so you can pass stories down like that? I’ve never bothered to check!

    6. Deb says:

      The main themes that seems to be repeated throughout this debate is books as memories and books for children. I find it interesting that most of us treasure our book memories, maybe even more than the books. Reading was never really a family thing when I was growing up, we were more likely to disperse around the house to do our own thing, though we did on occasion play cards and games.

      With books for young children, and picture books in particular, it seems that most of us feel that these at least will continue in print form even if other literature goes entirely ‘e’. I must admit that I would be very sorry not to be able to buy pretty picture books for my young family and friends. What would I do for birthday and Christmas gifts?

    7. David Andrew says:

      For the past year I’ve been consciously trying to read one e-book every month or two. I do believe this type of technology will eventually dominate the book/ magazine market – although I’m sure some areas – eg: picture books, children’s books etc., – will still exist in the form we know today. Because I’m not using a Kindle or equivalent, or a tablet, the process of reading ebooks for me is a bit “clunky”. I’m finding minor differences between ebooks (pdf, epub & Kindle format) like presentation, pagination, book-marks etc that challenge my basic computer skills & at times, interrupt the flow & enjoyment of the book.
      However, there’s a convenience aspect with the new technology that’s hard to beat – storage, and light-weight, small package that you can pop in your pocket.
      So, I’m in limbo when it comes to this debate … the jury’s still out. Consumer demand will determine much of the future direction I think. Do people – ingeneral, per head of population, I mean – still read for pleasure as much as earlier generations did? Do people still buy books at the rate that they did? Do parents still read to kids as much as they did … and therefore, model this activity?
      And, in passing, I wonder what Marshall McLuhan would make of this debate?

    8. This post made me think about the passing on of books and realise that I might not be doing this much in the future.
      I’ve given away all my CDs and my music is in the cloud, I own only a couple of DVDs and I seem to be giving away a physical book every time someone visits. On the other hand, i recommend music, films and books to people now and then, and buy physical books for my nephews. They’re not the actual book I read as a child, but a new or secondhand version I found (usually online). So, while it doesn’t have the same meaning as a 20 year old book that I had as a child, it’s still the same story. Which makes me think that digital media encourages us to be in the present more… I don’t need to collect it or buy it to read later, I can just buy and download it later, knowing it will be there.
      So, I guess it doesn’t concern me if my eBooks don’t work in two years time or for some strange reason I decide to leave iOS and go to Android. If I want to read them again, I can just buy the book again.

      It’s a bit sad that I can’t pass digital books on. I miss that. Once I’ve read a fiction book, I might flick through it and now and then of it is on the shelf, but I much prefer the idea of sharing it with someone else, or swapping books. ‘Sharing’ or discussing on social media just isn’t the same as looking through the bookshelves to find a book someone would like. I guess we can gift apps (and imagine soon can gift eBooks easier), but the digital reading experience on personal digital devices like iPhones, Kindles and iPads is a more private experience. As others have pointed out in comments, if someone is reading a book on an eReader it’s likely you don’t even know what the book is. Not a great conversation starter when the train is delayed.

    9. Every mention of a book in this debate seems to refer to a book of fiction. Technical and reference books don’t get a look in and they are books often with little longevity and are often the heaviest tomes. They seem to be ideally suited to the ebook format. They will not transport you to another world but they will build the next generation of EPUBS.

    10. Helen Chamberlin says:

      It’s all about the power of story, and I too love the tarmac analogy!