I am, as the title states, a reader first, a writer second. That must be true for all writers. Reading isn’t always a form of entertainment or escapism, however. It can be to learn, either in the sense employed in education, or for pleasure or personal interest. For example, I read books on military history, particularly the Napoleonic Era, and some contemporary accounts of military action. I’ve also been known to graze on encyclopedias and etymological dictionaries (I’ve never become so involved in non-etymological types). Other than that, my reading tends to fantasy, science fiction and military history fiction. I’ve read classics, too, like Les Miserables, War and Peace and a few others. There are, however, times (like now) when I don’t read books at all. I’m fairly sure that I’m not unusual in any of that.
As a reader, I’m looking for certain things. First, and foremost, the subject has to interest me. Second, the blurb needs to offer something intriguing, something that drives my curiosity to seek expansion. Third, it has to be fairly easy to read, without huge expanses of complex language. Finally, it should be reasonably well written. Turn-offs include a plethora of typographical errors, darkly depressing passages and highly intellectual pieces. I can forgive poor quality writing if the feat of imagination is sufficiently impressive.
Until very recently, I also had a strong preference for real books. I love the feel and smell of books. Put me in a second-hand bookshop and I can become lost just by the atmosphere! That’s something no web site will ever be able to achieve. That said, with book prices what they are, economics have forced me to look to ebooks as a serious option. That and lack of space for more books in the house. There’s no doubting that I’m headed down the eReader road, despite myself.
It may sound odd for a writer of ebooks to be less than keen on the technology but I’ve been reading for many years, being on the wrong side of 50, and it’s difficult to shed the love of physical books. It’s an inescapable fact, though, that ebooks are the real future, with physical books likely to end up being collectors’ items, for those who can afford them. They offer so much more than a real book can, and future advances in eReaders must bring genuinely useful extras. Eventually, there will be total domination of the world of literature by ebooks.
Let me just look at eReaders. They can carry a good sized library, which would require a considerable space investment if the equivalent number of physical books were kept. They offer ease of use and enhancements for those with vision problems. Many allow annotations, bookmarking and dictionary access. It is quite likely that we’ll see increasing use of access to things like Wikipedia, authors’ official web sites and audio. For audio, we’ll see audio books and word pronunciation facilities in dictionaries. Those annoying moments when we encounter the use of a foreign language we don’t understand will be overcome, by allowing access to a translator. Interactivity is growing fast, too. There are now many books aimed at allowing children to interact with colourful ebooks and that will be extended. I fully expect to see things like the Encyclopedia Britannica no longer being offered as a software package but, rather, being sold preloaded onto an eReader, and providing the same interactivity as the software always has.
Much of this is simply beyond physical books. With physical books, you need access to dictionaries and other reference works, increasing the space you need for all those beautiful books. More, you can only access those extra volumes if you’re in the same location as them. You’re not about to carry your whole library around with you! I wonder how many people who voice opposition to ebooks use computers to access information as a consequence of their reading of physical books?
There are limitations on ebooks, at the moment, but very few of them can’t be overcome. Ultimately, the ebook-eReader combination will be the victor in this revolution.