I have been thinking ‘Kindle’ over the past few days. There are plenty of reasons for this as things are really ‘hotting’ up as I move towards the denouement of my new crime novel, ‘The Unwanted’. It’s an exciting time and my mind keeps drifting towards how I am going to put my publicity campaign together when the book is published around Easter time.
Certainly the advent of e-books and self-publishing in this medium has been a really exciting development , not just for crime writers but for anyone who has something to say and wants to share their ideas with everyone who cares to take the time to listen. I wonder if people felt the same when the first printing presses started spreading the word. It is difficult to guess what the populace thought when they saw this exciting technology develop. After all, it brought a form of mass communication into people’s lives which they had never experienced before.
I recently came across a great book on Amazon which I couldn’t put down; it traces the history of books and how printing has changed our lives. It’s called Books as History by David Pearson. Being a ‘book person’ through and through I found it fascinating from the very first sentence where Pearson states that books have been ‘emblems in our culture and regarded as one of the defining characteristics of developed civilisations.’ That sentence set me pondering.
Yes, in my opinion it’s true and internet publishing is allowing anyone with a voice to put their ideas out across the globe. We can see from successes such as 50 Shades of Grey how powerful this medium has become, whether or not these books show ‘learning’ and ‘sound moral virtues’ these days is up for debate perhaps but they are still very important. In fact, for me, what it does say is that reading is probably more central to them than it has ever been and let’s face it books bring so much to our existence however you choose to read them.
I like to think about how books entertain, educate, inspire political change, promote intellectual and spiritual development and generally contribute so much to so many different aspects of our lives. As a writer, I cannot imagine my time without books in their many varied forms and I am really happy to think I am contributing to the tradition that now stretches back for almost seven hundred years. The first book printed by William Caxton in English was printed in the 1470s. For the sake of the completest amongst you it was a collection of stories based on the Trojan Wars. Caxton had a new typeface designed closely based on handwriting. When you consider it would have taken a couple of weeks to have anything you wanted to read copied out by hand this was an incredible step forward and I would love to have been there. I wonder how Caxton felt on the eve of publication.
I don’t know if I feel quite the same when I saw my first crime thriller downloaded on my Kindle but it was exciting. As Pearson says in his own volume, if other books are solely textual ‘their obsolescence seems guaranteed’. He suggests we now need to separate books from texts. This is an interesting differentiation as we are so used to looking at them as being one and the same thing and of course, they aren’t any longer.
Books have physical characteristics after all; think about that for a moment; these are lost in ‘download’ form. Does it matter? Yes, in one sense it probably does. I think we will use the Kindle for convenience but there will always be space on shelves for books that are very special in their own right, after all the material form in which texts are transmitted has a profound impact on their meaning.
I wonder what Caxton would have made of Facebook and Twitter. Certainly, I personally have much to ponder as I return to my latest creation, ’The Unwanted’. I hope that doesn’t end up being a prophetic title with respect to the future of books as real objects. I don’t think so, but those growing up with e-books might feel very different but then there are youngsters who are rediscovering vinyl, so who knows?
The Unwanted by James McKenna will be available in April 2013 on Amazon.