Vox: LES ZIGOMANIS
The Verity La Forum was conducted by Alec Patric from July 2011 to December 2011
The question is the threshold. With print novels (until the age of cheap self-publishing), there was quality control. Publishers weren’t publishing everything that came through their offices. They were selective. Obviously, they got it wrong a time or two, but they tried to maintain a standard. The e-form opens the dam, which would almost be like every publisher publishing their slush piles.
I’m not trying to be snobbish. I think everybody has something valuable to say and by valuable, I don’t mean it has to be ennobling with some lofty artistic merit. For me, something entertaining is ennobling, because for the time it entertains, it makes you feel good/happier/more fulfilled/or whatever the case might be, so there’s value in that. And with that being the case, I think everything has a market, whether it’s niche or mass.
But the question for me, always, I guess is voice. What’s to differentiate something worth reading from what’s not? Because if you have this saturation, at what point does it become a flood from which you recoil because you know venturing out there is going to drown you?
Although there’s a ton of novels out there, there’s always been a marquis about them, because it’s traditionally been so hard to get published. The e-form takes that out of the equation. Blogging almost validates that since so many people blog. All you need is a computer.
So with the e-form opening the door for everybody to publish everything, everybody else effectively becomes a slush pile reader, kicking up (in a sense of recommending) some gem they’ve found to others, which creates that cascade effect that you’d hope you discover the life-buoys in the flood.
However, the book will never die. You cannot kill a good story you can lose yourself in. It’s just the form it takes. Reading on a computer isn’t conducive to reading length. But eventually the technology’s going to develop that makes e-readers comparable to hardcopy print, which might even suggest that length will go the other way, since printing costs won’t be a consideration. In time, e-readers will become as ubiquitous as mobile phones, which, you’d hope, might actually encourage reading.
Somehow, though, kids will probably just play games on them.
As an aside, I don’t think you can beat the tactile sensation of an actual book. Maybe nerdy, but the texture of a page under your fingertips, the feel of a cover (particularly when it’s embossed, or the grain of a hardcopy), the actual sensation that turning a page is like taking a step deeper into the story’s world.
I like the pages’ smell when they’re new, and the way they yellow – almost with self-importance – and grow musty as the book gets older, as well as the way a book’s wear shows the journey it’s taken with you over the years. It has its own story. I even have books which might have a dog-ear, or a coffee stain on a particular page, which always triggers a memory of when that page was read.
Not to mention a book’s durability. You can read it in the tub; throw it in your bag, flick it on your bedside drawers, or hurl it at a spider, without fear of it being damaged; and, in all likelihood, somebody won’t mug you for it when you’re riding a train home late at night.
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