I just read an article from the NY Times this morning that basically talked about how tablets have a lot of distractions for people hoping to use them to read books (full article here). And I just gotta say, “No shit.”
I must admit, I’ve started reading an ebook or two, only to quit a few minutes later so that I could check my email, play some solitaire, or take funny pictures of me with a weird nose.
I mean, who hasn’t put down a book, only to pull out that junk drawer from the kitchen, because it just HAS to be organized, like right now? I think that the article itself might be a tad too negative for my taste.
If you think about it, tablets are incredibly great for books (well, until we get a good definition of the word “book,” maybe I should just say narrative, even though that word is problematic as well). I’m not going to harp on The Atavist, Push Pop Press, or any of the other wonderful platforms out there for authoring interactive, multimedia books. Too much. Instead, I wanted to suggest that maybe it’s a good thing that tablets have all of these other options right next to the books.
Think about it. If there were only books, and movies, games, and the internet, were all separate entities, far removed from books and reading areas, you could basically get lazy when making books. Publishers could print shit books, authors could turn out uninspired drivel, and the poor reader would be stuck reading the same garbage, day in and day out. I mean, what are the alternatives?
Now, god forbid that books have to stand right next to casual games, Netflix, and Pinterest. I’ve heard many students and colleagues talk about being drawn to the magic of books, and how they’re the best things since sliced bread. They transport us to new places; they are a great tool for cognitive development; there’s just no substitute for a well-written piece of dialogue…
I get it. Books are awesome.
But, if we really think that books are awesome, and as readers, writers, and publishers (or pickers, if you prefer), you should be like, “Eff yeah, bring it, bitches! Let’s all get tablets, put ebooks next to all those other apps, and have them fight to the futhermucking deaths!” Because you understand that books will win out, right?
Or maybe we’re scared of the possibilities that straight-text narratives are dying out. Maybe our brains are getting too complicated to just read words (highly unlikely, considering the Nielson ratings from last week), and we need other things to supplement those little bits of letters, words, and symbols.
Either way, it’s time to make it a fair fight. It’s true: shitty books cannot compete with shitty apps on a tablet. I don’t need a source for that statement; I think it’s self-evident. But I do think that it’s high time that writers and publishers step up to the challenge (it’s not like tablets are ever going to go away, and if they do, it’s probably only because we develop something that is just a little bit cooler) and make books that can compete with things like Infinity Blade (or something maybe not as cool, ’cause that shit is crazy).
The article ends with a great quote, and I think that I should end this with that same quote, because it pretty accurately sums up what I’m talking about here. It is a quote from a Erin Faulk, a “voracious reader in Los Angeles”:
“With so many distractions, my taste in books has really leveled up,” Ms. Faulk said. “Recently, I gravitate to books that make me forget I have a world of entertainment at my fingertips. If the book’s not good enough to do that, I guess my time is better spent.”
Well, I guess we’ve got to go make some good books then…