For the Love of a Book

Last week Publishers Lunch featured a guide to the latest eReaders coming down the pike (here). It’s fascinating and makes me think of all kinds of possibilities for the future. The new readers will have terrific uses in business, for games, for keeping up on news, for editors and others in publishing, and many more. Cool.

But I started asking myself: What does this mean for the future of the plain old book?

I’ve read dozens of articles lately that predict books in the future will be “so much more” than just words on a page (and they always say it as if it’s a good thing). Books will be “more interactive” with links embedded, and games, and choose-your-own-endings, and video pop-ups at certain points in the story… and who knows what else. The possibilities are limited only by the brilliant imaginations of those who create these technologies, which is to say practically endless.

I’m going out on a limb here to say one thing: I’m not buying it. And I don’t think you are either.

Sure, there will be an audience for these technologies. And I think all those applications will be especially awesome for non-fiction books, which will become totally different animals than they are now. Imagine a cookbook with video embedded showing you exactly how to truss that duck. Imagine math books that allow you to work a problem and then tell you if your answer is right or wrong. Imagine a Sunday morning without your fingers covered in newsprint ink as you peruse the happenings in the world. All very cool.

But What About Fiction?

What about the art of storytelling, which is thousands of years old? The only major thing that changed about storytelling in all of human history, despite practically everything else about human life changing, is that it went from verbal to written. Other than that, it has always been the same.

It’s a pure art form, and I think that no matter what happens in technology, the desire for stories, with no bells and whistles, just words, will always remain.

But what about the “interactivity” people crave? Well duh—books are already a wonderfully interactive form of entertainment. The writer provides the words. The reader provides the visuals, all in their imagination. The reader also brings a whole lifetime of assumptions, perspectives, opinions—a background that provides a context in which they experience the story. As readers, we love the interplay with the author’s words, and our ability to see the story on the movie screen of our minds, feel the story in our hearts.

Not only is it interactive, it’s intimate. Our private responses to a story are ours alone, and there’s a special kind of relationship that forms between writer and reader when a connection is made.

You Can Keep Your Bells and Whistles

In my opinion, nothing will improve upon the experience of simply reading (or hearing) a story, told with words alone, and allowing our hearts and minds to complete the experience. This is a large part of why you are a writer, too. The connection between yourself and the reader is something you crave.

Ever wondered why TV and movies never completely replaced books? Ever wonder why the advent of music videos didn’t destroy our enjoyment of simply listening to music? This is why. We enjoy the specific kind of interactivity—collaboration, if you will—that a story or a piece of music allows us.

People who love to read are specifically the kind of people who don’t want too much handed to them, taking away from their ability to imagine. This is why I’ve never liked music videos. Music has been a huge part of my life since I was a child, and I always loved the way a song spurred my imagination, producing pictures and whole entire stories. When music videos came along, they never captured my vision of the song. They took away from my personal connection to the music, layering someone else’s pictures on top of it. In watching a video I was keenly aware that I was being shown someone else’s emotional connection to it. I didn’t want someone else’s. I wanted my own.

Most of you know that I love movies, and I enjoy some television programs too (when I have time to watch them). I can even get into a Wii game now and then (although I’ve never played a video game in my life unless you count Scrabble). I love the Internet, I love my Blackberry, and I have a deep appreciation for how technology has changed my life. But to me, all of that is totally different from the special experience of reading a novel. All the technological interactivity in the world will never replace my love for words on a page.

Just words. Nothing else.

Photos: enTourage eDGe Dualbook ( and the Skiff (

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  7. Henya on January 12, 2010 at 7:19 PM

    >I know what you mean. I too have a special relationship with words and prefer to hold them in my hands in the form of textured pages and not delivered to me by way of an odorless gadget. Books are my life. They grow out of my many book cases, sprouting in upward mobility from my office floor like little story-telling mountains.

    Thanks for a thought provoking blog.

  8. Dineen A. Miller on January 12, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    >I wish I had time to read all these comments! So if I repeat something someone else said, forgive me.

    I agree in that books can't be completely replace, but I can see a whole new world here for fiction. What if you could read a book on a reader that picked up eye movement and could play music matched to the story at the point? I've always wanted to do something like that.

    And what about all the research that goes into a lot of fiction? You could have links in certain sections that would open author notes and research he or she wants to share with the reader. Location pictures, a funny story of how the author's trip to gather info, etc.

    The possibilities are unlimited. Kind of like a DVD with bonus features. 🙂

  9. Rhys Milner on January 12, 2010 at 2:39 AM

    >To pitch in.

    What Steve is talking about, MUDs etc, both still exist and evolved into the computer/console RPG we know today. But still the pen and paper RPG market is the biggest it's ever been.

    We may start to see interactive fiction on readers in the future (though imo it will be aeons before it's any good) but I don't think this will in any way detract from the classic novel. They're two different things and what I would expect to see is a market for a new product entirely, rather than any replacement of novels.

    For example, choose your own adventure, while popular(ish) didn't have a negative impact on novels, partly because it's something rather different and partly because, at least in my view, they were too gimmicky. Just as putting sudden video clips in the middle of my novels strikes me as gimmicky, not to mention horrid.

  10. Steve on January 12, 2010 at 1:44 AM


    I generally agree with your point, but I have to disagree strongly with one of your main supporting arguments.

    Interactive fiction has been alive and developing at least since the seventies – beginning with the classic "Adventure" (hard-coded in Fortran) and the wildly successful "Dungeon" (released commercially as "Zork"). The text adventure genre, now commonly supplemented with extensive graphics, is a mature, popular and compelling entertainment medium. And it is entirely about storytelling – but unlike with traditional print, the reader also becomes a character, generally the central character, and influences the course of the action. This form is obviously well-positioned to explode on the new electronic devices. No, it won't replace books. But it will certainly become an increasingly popular associated art form.


  11. Eva O'Dell on January 11, 2010 at 11:27 PM

    >I refuse to believe we can turn books into a video game like device. As you said, stories went from words from tongues to words on paper. Anyone who can't see the power in what they already are makes me sad.

  12. Eva O'Dell on January 11, 2010 at 11:27 PM

    >I refuse to believe we can turn books into a video game like device. As you said, stories went from words from tongues to words on paper. Anyone who can't see the power in what they already are makes me sad.

  13. Kathleen on January 11, 2010 at 10:15 PM

    >"Not only is it interactive, it’s intimate. Our private responses to a story are ours alone, and there’s a special kind of relationship that forms between writer and reader when a connection is made." Sweet.

    Truly, "we read to know we're not alone" ~
    And however we do it, with whatever medium, sometimes nothing replaces turning the pages of a straight cut or soft, deckled edge…of a real live book.

  14. Julie on January 11, 2010 at 10:00 PM

    >I live about an hour from the nearest 'decent' bookstore, so it's a huge treat when I get to go. Downloading a book might be more convenient, but then I wouldn't have anything to look forward to on the weekends!
    I can't imagine I'll ever stop buying physical books. They are my world.

  15. Jemi Fraser on January 11, 2010 at 7:53 PM


    Books need no improvements!

    Although … I like the nonfiction ideas you've listed. As a teacher, I look forward to those kinds of links, but there's no need to improve upon perfection 🙂

  16. Margaret on January 11, 2010 at 7:29 PM

    >I both agree and disagree on the fiction (what a great idea about the math book "try me" insert :)). I think that there might be more opportunity for illustrations or fun chapter headers that have become so rare. It's very expensive to put together multicolored books, but sometimes they can enhance the text even more than a date-place-person slug at the top of the scene.

    An example offhand would be the original hardback of Neverending Story. Not only did the first page of a chapter have illustrated borders like an illuminated manuscript, but the text was either red or green depending on which of the two worlds the character found themselves in.

    I just think there are opportunities for enhancements (though some are actually throwbacks that got lost in the name of cost effectiveness). However, when it comes down to it, for fiction, I'm with you 100% on it being the story that's important.

  17. Journaling Woman on January 11, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    >This must be on the minds of many. I blogged about this on my site today. I will always love the actual physical…let me touch you… I can smell you…book.

  18. JDuncan on January 11, 2010 at 6:36 PM

    >I don't think these technologies will mess so much with the actual reading of the story (maybe they will but I don't see that being very productive for standard fiction). I can see things added on like author interviews, interactive maps for fantasies, deleted chapters, character backgrounds, and a host of other things much like you'd find on the extras disc of a dvd. If this was done well and was an addition to and not a part of the actual ebook, I think people would buy it, and actually enjoy some of the content.

  19. Book Minstrel on January 11, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    >Loved your post. It captured completely how I feel in regards to the e-reader future. People are thinking too big, and forget why those who love to read, read in the first place. Something about the simplicity of it and letting my imagination take the reins. Thank you.

  20. CMOM Productions on January 11, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    >I whole heartedly second that emotion!

  21. Dominique on January 11, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    >This is a great post. Lots of food for thought.

    I like you comparison to music videos. Every now and then, I've watched a music video and thought, "what the whatever are you doing?" or "What is this supposed to have to do with the song?"

    I don't want to be thinking that about what an e-reader has done to a book. I can only imagine "opening" Ender's Game and seeing a link to e-games based on The Giant's Drink. "No," I'd probably cry, "what the whatever are you doing? Get out of my book!"

  22. Eric on January 11, 2010 at 3:00 PM

    >You've said it perfectly, Rachelle. While I can imagine your examples of non-fiction technological advances, a story isn't better because you can look up a picture of it on the internet while you're reading. No thanks. I'd rather just build the image in my own head. Great post.

  23. Rachelle on January 11, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    >Hillary, I'm not sure what you're seeing on your screen, but my blog does have the search function. It's in the very top bar, on the left.

  24. Nordicblogger on January 11, 2010 at 2:44 PM

    >I can appreciate the advantages, especially being able to store and retrieve documents in a compact and accessible system. As a teacher, I'm sure there would be many uses in the classroom for these systems. The prospects are exciting!

    However, as a reader, I want my books with pages that I turn by hand. I want to be able to put a finished book on my bookshelf afterwards, and when friends come over to be able to pull a book from a shelf and ask, "Have you read this one yet?" I also want to continue to furnish my classroom with baskets of books for students to browse through. Having the honor of placing real books in the hands of a child is something that I never want to stop doing.

    If I wanted my favorite books on a sterile, electronic, space-saving storage system, I'd have rented out a microfiche system years ago. And I'm quite certain that one entire wall of our living room (the longest one) would not be lined with bookshelves and window seats if I didn't love books and plan to keep on loving them.

    I think there's room in this world for both, but I hope that books will be with us for a long time to come.

  25. Anne Lang Bundy on January 11, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    >Beautiful post, Rachelle. Some of my favorite pieces that you write are when your love of words is evident.

  26. Hillary on January 11, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    >Rachelle, would you consider adding the "search this blog" widget/gadget available through blogger? I'd really like to be able to dig a little deeper into the archives if possible.

  27. Sierra Godfrey on January 11, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    >I really like this post because you brought up the topic of usability, which I think isn't typically explored in the ereader-real book debate. I like both methods of reading, but I definitely have concerns about ereaders in terms of reader usability. Nick Hornby spoke in San Francisco a few months ago and said that books on shelves are still a statement of our personalities –something I hadn't considered before–and that this use can't be replaced by ebooks. Just something else to think about.

  28. D.I. Telbat on January 11, 2010 at 1:17 PM

    >I say AMEN to that!

  29. Anonymous on January 11, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    >A bookstore nearby is closing down–with big discounts–and it was nice to see swarms of people of all ages buying stacks and stacks of books. Sure, they want the deep discounts but they also want to read actual BOOKS.

    E-readers might encourage more people to read, but they can never replace real books.

  30. Timothy Fish on January 11, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    >I think a few people are missing the point. Whether it is delivered by ink on wood fibers or is sandwiched behind a piece of glass, readers are going to continue to enjoy the internal visualization of the written word. As novelists, we are still going to be able to write stories and people are still going to be able to read them. Technology won’t change that, so let’s get it out of our heads that we have to change because of technology.

    Now, given that we have this technology available, either in the form of a handheld device or through a conventional computer, we might consider if there is an opportunity for us as writers to tell stories in a way that we couldn’t before. Motion pictures and television opened a door for us to not just tell stories, but to actually show a story. It didn’t do away with written stories; it is a very different form of storytelling. Video games are yet another form of storytelling. They haven’t done away with written stories or visual stories, but they provide a means by which the gamer has control over the story, within the framework defined by the authors. But what new form of storytelling does this technology allow?

    It’s a hard question to answer. If there is an answer other than “there isn’t one,” it is going to come from us in the writer community, not from the marketers selling the technology.

  31. Heidi Willis on January 11, 2010 at 12:40 PM


    If i want to click through links and not get sucked into anything too deeply, there is always the internet.

    When I read a book, I want to get lost in the story. Beginning to end.

  32. mary bailey on January 11, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    >This was a wonderful, rich, heartfelt, "wordy" post, Rachelle. Very well said!

    My husband works at a paper mill and he and I joke that one day our great, great grandkids will be amazed that their great-great grandpa once made that old-fashioned thing called paper!

  33. Irk on January 11, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    >I got a Sony Reader for Christmas. I was pretty excited to start on ebooks, with a hunch that the Reader would help me keep on-task. It's hard for me to keep a large book on-hand with all my stuff when travelling, and if I want to switch between books… that's right out. The device does exactly what I want, which is present books for me to read with text as large as I want it and no scrolling. Also, no eye strain from staring at a computer or mobile display all day (I do that enough already).

    Reading IT on the Reader has helped me discover a couple of other advantages to the ebook medium – I can double-tap a word if I want a definition or if I want to search for any other occurrences of it in the book. Both were very valuable, because I didn't have to look up what the Volstead Act was, and I was able to figure out if certain characters had shown onscreen before. I can also take a bunch of little notes on the text and set them to be hidden while I read, which means I can write on/postit the book all I want without marring the reading experience. It'll also keep bookmarks for me across multiple books.

    These are all really great enhancements to the basic reading experience. I don't really desire inline links or videos or anything (though the ebook medium should make choose-your-own-adventure type stories a lot easier to pull off), but I can't deny that ebooks bring innovation to the reading experience. I could have spent a long time trying to find one word in a physical 1050-page book – being able to search it electronically is a sort of bliss.

  34. K Marburger on January 11, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    >The more I read my news online, and read novels on my iPhone (it's always in my pocket; I can read anywhere), the more I notice that electronic copy is much more linear that hard copy.

    With a book, it's easy to flip back pages and hold my finger between them to reread something. With an e-book, it's annoying and distracting to the flow. With a newspaper, I can easily browse headlines and stories and read what interests me; online, I have to deliberately click or open a story. I like having all the print at my fingertips–the spaciousness. My mind works differently with different media, and there's a place for both.

    Then there are the changes in technology. Will the books I downloaded yesterday be readable in 10 or 20 years? Or will they be like floppy disks or reel-to-reel tape? I own books that are 200 years old.

  35. Marcus Brotherton on January 11, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    >This is one of the most encouraging posts on the subject I've read. Thanks Rachelle.

  36. Julie Surface Johnson on January 11, 2010 at 12:17 PM

    >Dear Rachelle,

    When you said, "People who love to read are specifically the kind of people who don't want too much handed to them, taking away from their ability to imagine," I was reminded of a class I took in college years ago. It was based on a book written by Marshall McLuhan called "The Medium is the Message."

    McLuhan's premise was that there are "hot" and "cold" media–hot being those which cause/allow you to participate in what is being shared.

    The radio was considered a hot medium because you were forced/allowed to engage and bring your own mental imagery to the table.

    Television was cold in that you could sit in front of the box and be spoon-fed everything. Little was left to the imagination. Your brain could wither and shrivel up.

    It seems we continue to move toward cold media. Makes one wonder if we are not edging ever closer to the brink of "new-speak" and we will be too brain-deprived to even recognize it.

  37. Dara on January 11, 2010 at 12:14 PM

    >I don't want all those bells and whistles either. Especially if they become like pop-up ads–I don't want it to break my concentration with the book and its characters.

    It's all about the story. I'm reading because that's all I want to do–I don't want to be enticed away from the story by games and other interactive features.

  38. Okate on January 11, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    >Your post is food for thought, Rachelle.

    Here's some revisionist history for readers to ponder: what would have been the response if Harry Potter had been released as an interactive ebook instead of plain print?

    I don't know the answer, but my guess is that readers would have been entertained, but not invested fully in the characters.

  39. Jeremy Robb on January 11, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    >I agree.

    Just like the movie industry with all their CG effects and such, the distractions do not a good story make. People may rave about the effects, but a good movie is one with a good story line. The story is what makes the movie, not the effects.

    The same with books, whether fiction or non-fiction. Sure, it would be nice to have an interactive environment where a word could be looked up for reference (much like a footnote), but nothing replaces a good bit of writing. That's why as an aspiring writer I'm not worried about the eBook. Storytelling doesn't change with new technology, and good stories will always win out over bells and whistles.

  40. Yvette Davis on January 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM

    >I think that added distractions will sway some readers away from some prose, but not all prose. I think the hunger for a good story will increase in response to too much cookie-cutter fiction and more of the same Internet tools just on a new device.

  41. Kristie Cook on January 11, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    >Nice perspective, Rachelle. I, personally, love my Kindle. Will it ever completely replace my physical books? I don't know yet. I do believe it will be a generational thing, though.

    Just as our grandparents couldn't imagine TV ever replacing radio as a way to share stories, we can't quite imagine e-readers replacing physical books. "It's just not the same!" we proclaim. But our kids and grandkids…if they know no differently, they'll look at reading physical books the same way we would have thought about listening to radio programs instead of watching TV shows.

    I think the benefit of the "extras" that could be provided on e-readers – videos, links, pictures, music, etc – would be a personal choice. It's all there, if you're interested, but you don't have to view it if you don't want to.

    There's a lot we can debate about ebooks vs. physical books. It's really a matter of personal choice and what we want to get out of a particular book. Sometimes I prefer my Kindle, others, a physical book, and it varies by the book and the exact reading situation.

    For the next few decades, at least, I hope we're given the option to choose. And by then, we may have all grown so accustomed to whatever technology is out at the time, we'll wonder why on earth we insisted on killing trees to hold our beloved stories in our hands, when they take place in our heads anyway.

  42. katdish on January 11, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    >I read novels to get AWAY from all the technology. I did get a Kindle for Christmas, and I love it. But I only use it for reading. I know there are built in features that would allow me to have access to (I think) the internet, but sometimes you just have to turn all that stuff OFF and reconnect with your imagination. And I'm not getting rid of my old fashioned books anytime soon.

  43. God and Ponytails on January 11, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    >Kindle is my new favorite possession, but I agree that I feel overstimulated constantly and reading is an escape from that.

    And you put words to the same thing I feel about music videos! Loved it- so true!

  44. Nicole on January 11, 2010 at 11:25 AM

    >Well said.

  45. Jana Dean on January 11, 2010 at 11:22 AM

    >Here here!
    I was so sad when they began "movie-izing" the Narnia books– to me it meant a whole generation of kids would miss out on creating that world in their heads.

  46. D. T. on January 11, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    >One day, when I finally own a home, I want to build my dream library. I love to look at books on a shelf. I love how they look. I love to arrange then, and rearrange them. I love to sprinkle memorabilia between and atop books. That visual and tangible arrangement all disappears if I make the switch to going digital. And that makes me sad! I like to read on paper. Can I 100% say I will never buy an e-reader? Well, no. But, I love to curl up with a good book in bed. I most definitely think a cold (okay – they do get hot) laptop would be as comfy. And, an e-reader? I just don't think it's the same. I like the smell of ink. I like when I buy a used book and it has a unique smell to it. And, finally, batteries die. If I am on a long flight, on a long drive, I don't want to book to turn off at a cliff-hanging scene. I'd rather just be able to turn the page. Also, I love to lend and borrow between friends. I love shopping for books in person. I just don't reason for digital outside some of the rational reasons I've seen, such as agents using them to read manuscripts or in business, other documents. When it comes to reading for pleasure, give me ink and trees!

  47. Norman on January 11, 2010 at 11:13 AM

    I wish Writer Jim had a blog, too.
    If he did, we'd all know by now.
    What I do is go to Rachelle's old posts and find his stories. I read them over and over. I believe God really will help writers that have good motives.

  48. Genie of the Shell on January 11, 2010 at 10:54 AM

    >Yeah… Video never DID kill the radio star, did it? I'm not so worried about the death of fiction by e-reader.

    I'm also unconcerned that kids downloading free copies of pop songs will tear down the music industry.

    It's just… not happening, is it?

    I don't see the need to fear new technologies. The same things that take chips out of product sales figures also provide free viral advertising, etc. And not everybody wants all their entertainment in digital form. Paper books still sell in massive quantities. Different formats have their advantages and disadvantages, but digital has not shown itself to be universally preferred, and I agree with you that I don't see it ever replacing the printed word entirely.

    Then again, I work two jobs that deal with older people who join book clubs and don't feel comfortable with computers… We'll see!

  49. Kristen Torres-Toro on January 11, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    >I completely agree!

  50. Heather on January 11, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    >Yes!! Thank you Rachelle!
    I agree with you–it's amazing that the technology to make things like the Kindle is out there. I appreciate how it might make editors' jobs easier–and certainly, being able to mark up a work without using paper would be very nice!
    But, I love handling books. I love having two bookshelves in my room overflowing with books! And who wants to be distracted with videos and games in a book anyway?
    So, maybe sometime a Kindle will make its way into my house–for business. For pleasure, just give me that good ol' paperback!

  51. Roxane B. Salonen on January 11, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    >Bravo Rachelle! You spoke to my heart today. Here's the line that stands out most: "Our private responses to a story are ours alone." I'm in the generation that experienced the first MTV videos. In some ways it was cool to see an artist's rendition of a particular song, but I felt a sense of loss, too, because now whenever I heard that song, I would think of the artist's version. That had replaced what my imagination had envisioned. Something had been lost. That's the same thing that I feel would be lost if real books were to go away, and it would be a tremendous loss. I don't think we can overstate the importance of just words, of a plain old book. I think because technology is so exciting, it is super easy to overlook all of the unseen, unnamed reasons we read just words. I hope it's not only in hindsight, after the art form has vanished, that we realize the loss. I hope we can hang on to our books, while still appreciating what technology has to offer. This seems to be your vision. It's mine as well. I think it's a sound one.

  52. DK on January 11, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    >I think when in the old ages people instead of telling eachother stories, they started to write the stories down they were having the same concerns as we do now. What will happen to our bards? What will happen to the liveliness of the story? etc.

    Of course the story will change, but I don't worry about it. Let it be what it is. Period.

  53. Christie on January 11, 2010 at 10:32 AM

    >I agree! It's so reassuring to know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

  54. katieleigh on January 11, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    >AMEN. I still want books. "Just" books. They contain whole worlds.

  55. Katrina Stonoff on January 11, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    >I feel the same way about movies that you feel about music videos. I have my own vision for what a specific story looks like, and I don't want someone else's superimposed over it because then I lose mine. In fact, I avoid movies made from my favorite books for exactly that reason (and when I cave, I always regret it).

    In fact, I'll ditto Sarah Forgrave: I don't even want a photo on the cover. This goes double for book trailers: please don't use photographs of people's faces.

    I love my Kindle. I especially love it for traveling because I can carry a stack of books (and a bookstore) in my purse. But I don't want the bells and whistles either.

  56. Cheryl Barker on January 11, 2010 at 9:40 AM

    >Amen and Amen, Rachelle. Nothing beats our own imaginations when it comes to reading books and listening to music.

  57. Joanne on January 11, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    >What I don't like about ebooks is what I don't like about emusic. To me, the actual physical product is a piece of art that we can collect, accumulate, line shelves with, admire, seek out in "used" stores to add to our cherished collections. I've yet to hear of anyone with a beautiful, artistic collection of emusic or ebooks. They don't physically exist. There's a visual satisfaction that goes along with collecting. So in a sense, if we lose actual books to ebooks, we've lost an artform.

  58. T. Anne on January 11, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    >I must agree. There is no great technology that is going to give my mind a run for it's money when I am lost in a book. Perhaps an author interview at the end of the novel would be something interactive? I'd love to watch that. 🙂

  59. Rachel on January 11, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    >Exactly. I do want a Kindle, but I would hate for my reading experience to be cluttered up by any of the bells and whistles you described.

  60. Rachelle on January 11, 2010 at 9:15 AM

    >Thanks, everyone for your comments! You have a lot of great points. Don't forget, however, that I've had the Kindle since its first generation and I LOVE it. I use it for pleasure reading, but it also has revolutionized my work life. No more printing out manuscripts – I read them ALL on Kindle. I also gave my hubby the Sony Reader for Christmas and he's really enjoying it. So I don't have anything against electronic readers; I think they have many advantages including saving paper, shipping and storage. But I don't think the "bells and whistles" are what the average fiction readers are looking for.

  61. Matilda McCloud on January 11, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    >I agree! If I read an e-book (fiction) with hyperlinks or an optional soundtrack or mini-videos in it, I'd probably go insane! I hope publishers aren't thinking of taking ebooks in this direction….

  62. Marla Taviano on January 11, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    >Yes, yes, yes.

  63. Sandra on January 11, 2010 at 8:51 AM

    >Sometimes when I browse YouTube, I come across alternate videos for well-known songs. Perhaps this is how some people deal with the problem of official videos not matching their interpretation of the music: they make their own video. Maybe someday readers will do something similar for books they love. But I personally prefer to listen to the music without a video, just as I prefer to read books and come up with my own images.

  64. Sarah Forgrave on January 11, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    >I tend to be one of those purists who doesn't even like to see a character's picture on the cover. If the publisher's photo matches what I envision in my imagination, it's not a problem. But if the two don't match, it distracts me every time I close the book. 🙂

  65. Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought on January 11, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    >The bells and whistles would distract me. Who wants to be distracted while reading a book? I’m there for the story. I’m there for imagination. I won’t even get started on the smell and feel of a book in my hands. I agree…it’s all about the words.
    ~ Wendy

  66. Hillary on January 11, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    >Writer Jim,
    Do you have a blog? The other day I was remembering some of the things you've said, particularly regarding the sovereignty of God in our writing endeavors, and I just really needed to hear them again.

    Perhaps ebooks and ereaders are here to stay but I believe there are too many people, like me, who remember curling up in bed with a flashlight and a copy of Anne of Green Gables. Inhaling the faint yellowed mustiness of an old friend. Patting crinkled spines fondly and musing over one-sided conversations and out-of-nowhere laughs. Cold screen cannot replace pages infused with soul.

    A good cup of coffee with a good book, and we are never alone!

  67. Linda Banche on January 11, 2010 at 8:34 AM

    >The oldest "interaction" in the world is talking to people. I wonder if those interactive-happy folks ever talk to anyone, or if they're using the interactive technology to shield themselves from others.

    I love books. And the authors I like the best can paint pictures with words. The pictures aren't just physical places, either, they're also emotional and historical, and imaginary. Amazing how much a good author can do with 26 letters.

  68. Stephanie L. McGee on January 11, 2010 at 8:27 AM

    >Beautiful post. Thank you, Rachelle.

  69. CKHB on January 11, 2010 at 8:26 AM


    (Pun intended.)

  70. Jason on January 11, 2010 at 8:22 AM

    >Speaking of eReaders…the hardware manufacture of these items is doomed from the start. IF the phenomenon of eReaders takes off, that technology will simply be integrated into our cell phones.

  71. Timothy Fish on January 11, 2010 at 7:44 AM

    >You make some very good points. The simple fact is that we have had the technology to deliver many of these extras for more than a decade. We’ve had embedded links from the beginning of the web. Games—we have plenty. Choose-your-own-endings, we had that before the Internet. Video—yeah, we see that all the time too. We could do it all with websites and have. The irony is that we are moving away from that technology in favor of the simple blog, which though it can still include images and video, a blog is essentially “words on paper.”

    We’ve had the technology to put pictures in books for a long time, but people who read novels aren’t looking for pictures. Children are, yes, but not your adult reader. Adult readers are looking for an experience that is available through simple words on paper. Occasionally, we like to see an author include a diagram showing were the players were seated when the murder took place or something like that, so there could be a place for small amounts of additional content, but not in every novel. However, the cost of producing that content is likely to be prohibitive. The additional value just won’t be enough to convince readers to pay the cost.

  72. Krista Phillips on January 11, 2010 at 7:32 AM

    >I totally agree!! It sounds nice for non-fiction, although… I think we already have some of that… it's called the Internet. I can read my news online already, and when my hubby needed to fix the dish disposal, instead of buying a "how to book" he went to youtube and watched someone fix one.

  73. Jill on January 11, 2010 at 6:59 AM

    >You have a wonderful way with words, and I think you've expressed something that no one else has. No matter how great technology is, it can't replace the experience a reader has with the writer in his own mind. No one else mentions that when they talk about technology, and I think it is the core reason why some things about fiction will never change.

  74. Linda Adams on January 11, 2010 at 6:27 AM

    >I just got an eReader two days ago, so this is a timely topic. So far, the experience eReading is "different." I haven't decided if I like it or not, but it certainly doesn't replace the book itself.

    Where it does work: I don't have to lug a heavy book to work or on the Metro–I can just take the eReader. Where it will work well in the future as technology improves: school text books and technical books (though even I'm not sure about this one; an eReader for a tech book might not be better than having a library online where you can just look up the page and get the info).

    Where it doesn't work: Price. I looked around the eReader's site–honestly $15 for an electronic file was way, way too much. With a price like that, I might as well buy the book.

    Where it might help writers: If new writers aren't selling well because they're not getting visibility, bundle several as eBooks in a similar genre and have priced it to sell–of course with the next book for the writer available.

  75. JJ Beattie on January 11, 2010 at 6:21 AM

    >I love the Internet, I love my Blackberry…All the technological interactivity in the world will never replace my love for words on a page.

    I absolutely agree.

  76. Jessica on January 11, 2010 at 6:12 AM

    >I have to agree. All that extra stuff would be distracting, like someone trying to talk to me when I'm reading. The horror!! *grin*

    But all these new readers…yeah, they're pretty cool, even if I don't think they'll take the place of a quiet read.

  77. Katie Ganshert on January 11, 2010 at 6:03 AM


  78. Elena Rey on January 11, 2010 at 4:49 AM

    >Rachel, thanks for writing this. I can't agree more! Just yesterday i was looking at my library shelves with beautiful penguin classics, soft fatty volumes with old yellow pages. Old books have this specific cosy feeling, smell, world, and this is definitely something i want my children and grandchildren to know and enjoy. not just read another book on another iphone..

  79. Maureen Hume on January 11, 2010 at 4:09 AM

    >I mustadmit I enjoy the convienence of downloading an ebook whenever I feel like it, especially because I live quite a distance from a book shop. But for children an ereader, as they are at the moment, really isn't practical.
    Bath/toilet dunkings, juice spills, backpack slam fights, vomit attacks…real books manage to survive these everyday misshaps but an ereader wouldn't stand a chance. Books still rule!

  80. Gary Corby on January 11, 2010 at 3:57 AM

    >There might be a valid analogy with music.

    Music videos are "so much more" than just a lot of sound.

    But how many people watch the video instead of just listening to the music?

  81. Lynz Pickles on January 11, 2010 at 3:09 AM

    >I totally agree with you, Rachelle. Though I'm not a fan of e-books, I think the "enriched content" thing goes beyond format. Reading a book requires concentration in a way that watching TV or surfing the Internet just… doesn't. While being distracted from the latter two does annoy me, I can use the back button on my browser or rewind a movie. Books, specifically fiction, are just so much more than that. I think a lot of it is about the visual aspect: when you're reading a book, you have to mentally create your visuals, whereas anything with a screen gives them to you. It's much easier to re-enter the world on the screen, the one you can physically see, after exiting it, than it is to re-enter that mental one. I just don't see how having your concentration broken in the middle of exploring that mental could be anything but frustrating.

    If you wanted to add a short story or a written interview of the author at the end of the book, that's a different matter. That already happens in some physical books, though, so it's not exactly something new that technology could offer us.

  82. thisismewriting on January 11, 2010 at 3:00 AM


    Thanks for writing this. So well said.

    I love the advances in technology–the computer, the internet, the iPod, cellphones. All have made my life immensely easier and better. But, the one constant since my childhood, has been books–the ink on paper kind. And I hope they remain, in that form, a continuing constant in my life. I have no plans to buy an eReader and seriously can't see myself ever needing one as long as books exist.

    So much of our daily lives are "interactive." I look to a good book to get away from all that, to escape. I want the simplicity of the words on the page and my own imagination to fill in the blanks. I don't need a link to a website or a video reenactment to do it for me.

  83. L-Plate Author on January 11, 2010 at 2:55 AM

    >Hi Rachelle, I've just put a post up about my sony pocket ereader that Santa got me (after trying out for your competition, I was hooked).

    The pocket reader isn't connected to wifi, all I can do is read a book on there. And that's the way I like it. You're right, I don't think it will ever take place of the feeling of holding a paperback, for me anyway.

    But on that note, I love the reader because, as a writer, I can upload my manuscript as a word document and hey presto! It looks like any of the other books I've downloaded. For me it was really inspiring to see it – and also to spot a few typos I missed on the screen and white paper.

    I reckon some of the new readers will wow techies, but for me, the pocket reader does exactly what I want with no added extras to distract me. And it's pink!

  84. writer jim on January 11, 2010 at 2:14 AM

    I agree totally.
    Although some books I'd be happy with a e-book; the books I want to keep I want to be a traditional BOOK.
    I have eight Bibles; they are all written in and marked up extensively. An ebook could never compare to your own personal copies of words on paper.