Author Topic: Fiction in the Age of E-Books  (Read 1686 times)

ffcal

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Fiction in the Age of E-Books
« on: April 22, 2010, 10:49:04 PM »
Riffing off our rexent iPad discussion, I thought this Paul Theroux piece about fiction and e-Books was an interesting take on electronic media replacing physical media:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/08/fiction-in-the-age-of-ebooks/8041

His description about living with a book as a physical object and talisman is similar to way I feel about physical media for music.

Forrest


9dragons

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Re: Fiction in the Age of E-Books
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2010, 12:35:31 AM »
I agree Forrest, there is something magical about holding the physical object in one's hands. Especially a book. It is truly a talismanic object.

The other night I was talking with a writer and a designer who were zealously promoting all this e-crap. I adamantly stated that no matter how many gadgets they come up with, the book will remain an object of use and veneration, not to be supplanted. They disagreed, and I couldn't even argue with them because they were on such a different planet when it comes to the love of objects. I guess if it means nothing to you, you never will get it.

I think it is great that many mass market paperbacks and heavy textbooks could be efficiently switched to digital format, in order to save trees and provide "convenience", but the happy few will still crave for real quality books and all the pleasures that accompany them.

Sometimes it strikes me, and I hope I don't offend anyone, that many people have this manic, pointless obsession with reducing everything down to digital and screens. I spend a lot of time on my Mac, and enjoy it a lot (it's a huge part of my work and life), but I would like to keep some things that still have surface texture, that I can look at by candlelight, thumb through freely while smelling the pages

Why are some people so obsessed with getting even more staring-at-a-screen time?

Seren

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Re: Fiction in the Age of E-Books
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2010, 04:44:11 AM »
Eventually they'll just put us in a box from birth to death - with a screen for everything we 'do'.

Virtual reality has it's pleasures and advantages, but it is not a substitute for the real thing.

mgriffin

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Re: Fiction in the Age of E-Books
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2010, 02:21:41 PM »
I have mixed feelings about electronic versions of books and music.  Until I tried out my iPad, I thought reading material of any length in electronic form was a ridiculous idea, and I'd stick with my mega-zillions of plain old paper books, even if our house is overrun with the things.

There are times, though, when I love to have a bunch of books and stories and articles (it's quite easy with Stanza software to turn a .DOC/.RTF file or any formatted HTML into an .EPUB file you can load into iBooks) with me, easily accessible, and bookmarked to the page where I left off reading.  This certainly won't stop me buying mostly paper books, but it's nice to have another option.  If I'm sitting and doing nothing but reading, a book is best, but if I'm having lunch in a restaurant or something like that, it's fantastic to read in the iPad.  You can just rest the thing on the table and tap it once every time you want to flip the page, and that's it.  Reading a book while eating is a pain in the ass, holding it open, etc.

Same thing goes for my iPod and portable listening that way.  I find it's sometimes nice to have a bunch of pending Hypnos demos on my iPod and give something a listen at a random moment, rather than carrying around a rubber-banded bundle of eight or ten CDRs everywhere I go, like I used to do.

Again, I don't anticipate buying a lot of downloads instead of CDs, but it's nice to have a simple, portable jukebox like that.

I do think it's pretty damn weird that some people want to do away with disc and books and just have a bunch of bits and bytes on their various hard drives and solid state drives.  It's really true, we already stare at a computer screen too much as it is.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

sraymar

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Re: Fiction in the Age of E-Books
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2010, 05:00:19 PM »
Books are just words which are symbolic of reality, (or somebody's twisted take on it) the menu not the meal. I imagine there was a little outrage when the move from stone tablets to paper occurred.

Same for CDs and DVDs which are both artificial reality. I wouldn't get too caught up on which artificial medium reality (or altered reality) is represented on. Tonite  I'm going to watch Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon from '73 which I missed the first time around on the big screen medium. I also have the option to stream it online sans DVD but I only have broadband with Wi-Fi.

It kinda makes you wonder in this century how good artificial reality is going to get. Will we get the Star Trek room were you can go in and actually live in a fantasy and interact with other people that aren't on a screen? Imagine a studio like that with tactile knobs and faders, all kinds of instruments you can pick up and play that aren't really there. It kinda makes you wonder if we're already there but don't realize it yet.


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ffcal

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Re: Fiction in the Age of E-Books
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2010, 06:35:34 PM »
Books are just words which are symbolic of reality, (or somebody's twisted take on it) the menu not the meal. I imagine there was a little outrage when the move from stone tablets to paper occurred.

Same for CDs and DVDs which are both artificial reality. I wouldn't get too caught up on which artificial medium reality (or altered reality) is represented on.

I'd have to beg to differ with you on this one.  I think it depends on the cultural context in which you came of age.  If records or CDs were never really a part of your life in the first place (such as a lot of 20-somethings who have only known downloading), it's easy not to see what all of the fuss is about.  As you would put it, sometimes the menu is part of the meal.  I think the key here is not to impose your sense of reality upon someone else, which, unfortunately, is what record companies may ultimately do if and when they phase out the physical CD.  Surprisingly, the LP has been showing some resilience lately, so maybe that's a hopeful sign that we haven't decided to replace every real thing with a virtual one.

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Re: Fiction in the Age of E-Books
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2010, 12:30:55 AM »
Books are just words which are symbolic of reality, (or somebody's twisted take on it) the menu not the meal. I imagine there was a little outrage when the move from stone tablets to paper occurred.
Same for CDs and DVDs which are both artificial reality. I wouldn't get too caught up on which artificial medium reality (or altered reality) is represented on. Tonite  I'm going to watch Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon from '73 which I missed the first time around on the big screen medium. I also have the option to stream it online sans DVD but I only have broadband with Wi-Fi.

Ok, to get an idea of what I am talking about, imagine you are watching that Floyd video on a small black and white tv. Makes no difference, right? It's the medium, not the message, right? Now imagine how annoyed you would be at the diminished experience, watching that video, and ask yourself if it really is the message. This is how some people feel about books. Sure, the words are the same, but it's how they are presented, how they are printed on the page, the feel of the paper, the suppleness of the binding and the texture of the paper and cloth cover. It is not just the provenance of digital technology that can express itself in multiple ways. Things have a reality, they cannot be separated from their thingness. Being aware of this is an interesting dilemma. If you disagree, would you be just as happy with a tv half the size with terrible sound? Probably not. Now just transfer that same feeling to how someone might feel for a non-digital medium and it might make sense.

sraymar

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Re: Fiction in the Age of E-Books
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2010, 07:09:11 AM »
Books are just words which are symbolic of reality, (or somebody's twisted take on it) the menu not the meal. I imagine there was a little outrage when the move from stone tablets to paper occurred.
Same for CDs and DVDs which are both artificial reality. I wouldn't get too caught up on which artificial medium reality (or altered reality) is represented on. Tonite  I'm going to watch Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon from '73 which I missed the first time around on the big screen medium. I also have the option to stream it online sans DVD but I only have broadband with Wi-Fi.

Ok, to get an idea of what I am talking about, imagine you are watching that Floyd video on a small black and white tv. Makes no difference, right? It's the medium, not the message, right? Now imagine how annoyed you would be at the diminished experience, watching that video, and ask yourself if it really is the message. This is how some people feel about books. Sure, the words are the same, but it's how they are presented, how they are printed on the page, the feel of the paper, the suppleness of the binding and the texture of the paper and cloth cover. It is not just the provenance of digital technology that can express itself in multiple ways. Things have a reality, they cannot be separated from their thingness. Being aware of this is an interesting dilemma. If you disagree, would you be just as happy with a tv half the size with terrible sound? Probably not. Now just transfer that same feeling to how someone might feel for a non-digital medium and it might make sense.

As it turns out it wasn't the early 70s film after all but a critique of it years after which was in itself sort of a letdown but also interesting and I'll have to rent the original again(it also featured a critique of Meddle BTW), and I watched it on my laptop. A larger screen would've been nicer but I got the jist of it. Actually being at a live performance or in the studio with them would have been better still in a sense but it was nice to have the critic's insights added too. 

Anyway I see your point about the type and quality of the medium, and I said I wouldn't be too concerned but that's just me. Still the best reproductions aren't the real thing. Oddly any photo of a painting isn't as good as seeing the real painting which is an artificial representation of the painter's imagination but moving none the less. Different people like to draw the line at different levels. I guess its all relative like anything.

An interesting thing occurred to me last night when I went out for a walk. I was passing by a train station near my place and a guy was standing on the sidewalk playing a drum that looked a little like Desi Arnaz's Babaloo drum(I almost yelled out a request for Babaloo) and I was a little facinated by how good the drum sounded getting some good reverberation from the buildings in that area, how more defined it sounded than any CD or DVD could. It was the real thing baby.
Ambient isn't just for technicians!

The artist isn't a special kind of man, but every man is a special kind of artist.

Don't be afraid to grow, give yourself a chance.