The Slipstream

A degree of the surreal,

The not-entirely-real,

And the markedly anti-real.

A pernickity book worm

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From the moment my mother first introduced me to the written word I have been a book worm. Always curious, always questioning and always devouring new stories and adventures – eager to dig in and become all consumed.

I love the smell of pages, the weight of the story in my hands, the dog-eared corners and scribbled margins. It was for these reasons that I was wary of the eBook phenomenon. As part of the education field, I knew all the reasons they were great. I had no problem with the concept of them. I didn’t fear their sometimes predicted obliteration of the printed book.

I just didn’t want to read a book that wasn’t a book book.

I flirted with the idea of buying an eReader for two years before I finally gave in late last year. It wasn’t through peer pressure or a curiosity about the medium, rather the frustration at lugging so many books around with me. At any one time, I would have 2-3 books on my persons – the idea of having it in one tablet was attractive.

So I bought one.

And I did nothing with it for two months. Some may argue that’s because I chose to go with a Sony Reader model instead of the much lauded iPad but really I felt unfaithful. It took a publisher sending me a review copy in digital form to change my mind. Ever attempting to read a 250+ page manuscript from a stack of papers confined by a rubber band? It’s not fun.

It took a further trip to an online book store to further propel me into the eBook world. Though using their categories to sort the wheat from the chaff was a chore unto itself, I found new authors I wanted to read and old books that had fallen out of traditional print. Before I knew it, I was standing on the tram, keeping my balance whilst smothered between fellow commuters and reading quite happily.

My book consumption and purchase rose through the roof.

As did my traditional book purchasing.

You see, I don’t believe in choosing sides. I have preferences. Sometimes I want the convenience of reading a book on a tablet, or purchasing a book immediately when it isn’t possible for me to get to the bookstore. However, there is nothing better than snuggling into an armchair and indulging one’s self in the weight and comfort of an honest to goodness book.

In dipping my toes into the eBook waters, I was reading more frequently which requires more materials. With the purchase of my Sony Reader my eBook and traditional book purchases increased enormously.

I don’t believe the traditional book will go the way of the dodo. Its form has weaved its way into our lives and is threaded throughout our memories from childhood to adulthood.

I attended the Children’s Book Council of Australia National Conference in May this year and the much celebrated children’s author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers spoke about his work while accompanied with assorted visuals. Pictures from his life, representations of his work, as well as the different mediums his work has now undergone. One was a short animated version of ‘Lost and Found’, another was the app for ‘Heart in a Bottle’ narrated by Helena Bonham-Carter. The app was simply amazing and supported Jeffers’ belief that his eBooks will not kill their printed brethren, instead it is a tool for helping kids to decode, play and engage with the story. He also believes that “…the digital revolution will only negatively affect disposable publishing – good books, especially kids’ books will benefit”, and I cannot hope more that this is true.

Regardless of genre – books are a vital part of our history, our storytelling and our ability to empathise with others – storytelling has always changed form. It is not surprising that it is zigging and zagging again. While there are many issues that are impacting the publishing industry with the advent of the eBook, some genres have jumped on board. It is in looking at the children and romance markets that you can see the attraction of the new medium. Last year I heard, international romance best seller, Stephanie Laurens questioned on eBooks. Her response? They are not an issue, she has been available in eBook form since 2002. Children’s books, through the ePlatform, can be increasingly accessible for students struggling to engage on many levels.

From a user standpoint, the eBook has many benefits.

I am relatively new to these advantages. But while I still love the books that beautifully grace my shelves, well loved and well read, I have come to realise that you can have the best of both worlds.

Adele Walsh joined the State Library of Victoria’s Reader Development team in 2011 as the Program Coordinator for the Centre for Youth Literature.

Her extensive experience as an avid young adult literature reader and a passionate youth literature advocate is used to great effect in her wonderful YA blog, Persnickety Snark.

Adele also has a professional background as a teacher and in her new role provides content for the Centre for Youth Literature’s website, Insideadog as well as programming events to provide opportunities for the promotion of literature for young adults.

Insideadog is a fantastic website. I LOVED being a guest there. You can read through my archived month long blog adventure here: Isobelle’s posts on InsideADog.
There is one blogger a month inside the dog, and I can tell you I spent hours reading backwards through the posts of my friends and colleagues, when I was there, constantly being startled and surprised and enchanted.

I was so inspired and I learned so much from my quirky guest residency insideadog that it inspired me to create my own blog, now under construction. That will go live in August.

I have to thank Adele for being part of the creation of the site, and I was elated when she agreed to give me a piece for the forum. I think you will find her offering as enlightening and interesting as I did!

5 Responses

  1. Emily Craven says:

    “My book consumption and purchase rose through the roof. As did my traditional book purchasing.”

    That’s what I love about this ebook revolution. People who buy ebooks have said across the board that they now buy more books, and I find it very interesting that it has not only increased your digital purchasing but your print book purchases too. It’s a trend that Neil Gaiman observed when he convinced his publisher to release American Gods as a free download for a month. They found that this increased the purchase of his print in indie publishers (not even the big chains) by 300%.

    I’ve found too that I’ve been buying more books lately then I ever have. And it’s been wonderful!

    • Deb says:

      I think that half my problem with e-books is that I would want to spend more. And read more.

  2. Great post, Adele. There’s a new survey on Australian e-book buying habits which was published in Aust Bookseller and Publisher very recently and one of the findings was exactly what you say, that people who bought a lot of books generally just bought more–that readers tended to buy both p- and e-editions. Interestingly though one of thefindings from that was that though a lot of people had bought e-books, the majority bought them to read on laptops or PCs–presumably with a Kindle app or similar?–followed by Apple, whether Ipad or phone, and the dedicated e-readers like Kindle, Kobo, etc, only accounted for a small percentage.

  3. Fiona Wood says:

    Your experience of the Reader being an expansion, rather than an alternative, is shared by all the hardcore readers I know. I still haven’t got around to buying an iPad. I will do it; I’m not anti-tablet, and I feel increasingly idiotic packing heavy books for travel. But last week I reread Middlemarch in Bali. The physical book. Around 600g of luggage, 853 pages including footnotes. But part of the pleasure of reading this wonderful book again *was* physical: it was the balance of the book changing in my hands, it was the pages fluttering in the warm breeze, it was watching the last couple of hundred pages disappear, heart pounding with the pleasure of the narrative, but filled with dread as the remaining pages dwindled far too quickly. A few other things about physical books: one is that my children devoured books, literally, in their early reading years – I like to think that babies and toddlers will always be able to chomp through some healthy cardboard and paper roughage, not simply drool on glass; another is that I love physically browsing my own bookshelves, friends’ bookshelves, and library bookshelves; and finally, it might seem fanciful and romantic in a few years, but I hope libraries will always be the safe repository of physical books.

  4. Great post, Adele.

    I’ve so far managed to stay clear of digital reading — I’d love the fact that I could read a book on a tram or a train, but the moment I leave my computer I give my eyes a rest; so I’m not enticed by that extra reading time e-readers allow. One thing I’d like to point out re this “debate” on e-books taking over from print books is that even if e-books complement print books (people read the e-book and want the print book), my argument would be there won’t be any bookshops left to sell them. Times are already tight for booksellers, and personally I see a time where only the chainstores will be selling them. This will be fine for the best-sellers, but never be fooled into thinking they’ll stock unknown authors, because they’re not booksellers, they’re only using books as “units” to draw people into their stores. I known of booksellers who find it cheaper to buy their books from Target, Big W, etc, than to get them from the publishers. Chain stores get a huge discount, and are selling them at less than the traditional bookseller can buy them at. (Independents also have to pay a surcharge on small orders, another nail in the coffin for them, but good for the chain stores). Of course, some A-list authors would wholeheartedly disagree with this statement, but I’m not talking superlatives, I’m talking mainstream. In a nutshell, overall I don’t see e-books as being good for print books, for a good many reasons.