Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Joining the Revolution

I’ve joined the electronic revolution and purchased an iPhone. Having been resistant for some time, I could no longer avoid the temptation of having the social networks at my fingertips, cool apps to explore, email at the tap of a button, and a personal calendar on hand. Now I can relieve my purse of my pocket-sized appointment book and my emergency Sudoku pad. No longer will I have to fumble for someone’s phone number or wish I could send a photo directly to Facebook. I can do all of these things and more.

And therein rests the problem. The iPhone, like its larger cousin the iPad, is in itself a complete source of entertainment. Miss a favorite TV show? Watch it on your device. Need to look up the nearest pizza palace? Ask Siri. Need to kill time at the doctor’s office? Read a book on iBooks. Or better yet, play a game of Solitaire.

No wonder people’s attention spans are decreasing. It makes me worry for the future of reading. Who will be able to concentrate on finishing an entire novel when so many other activities require less effort?

Thank goodness for teen fiction that captures the interest of our youth and perhaps spurs them on to develop a lifelong reading habit. Because once the older generation who gobbles up our stories in print form dies off, who will be left? Consumers who expect their reading material to arrive in the form of daily excerpts? Will the art of storytelling devolve into single page entries? How can we make reading more attractive to the younger set to compete with iTunes?

Storytelling will always be part of our psyche even if the means of delivery evolves. But as a novelist, I am concerned for the future of our art. Can those of us trained to write lengthy works adapt to the changing marketplace? What if we have no choice? Do we want to write shorter, compelling, quicker prose? Can we compete with smartphones and tablets, or must we join the revolution and change our techniques to suit them? 

8 comments:

  1. I think it's both/and Nancy. As I wrote on Sunday, there is a whole new market for shorter work, just like in the pulp days (which also had people wondering about the future of reading). But a good long novel will sell IF the parts read compellingly....the way Dickens used to do it.

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  2. For me, smartphones, tablets, ereaders mean an expansion of reading possibilities.

    Yes, I even read (and finish) novels on my smartphone.

    I have found myself wasting so much time WAITING for things (waiting for my boyfriend in the car, waiting for appointments at doctors' offices, being stuck in a traffic jam...) that all those devices seem like salvation.

    Carrying my kindle or smartphone with me is so much easier than taking the 750-page-book with you.

    I don't care whether I'm reading longer or shorter stuff. I'm just glad I can read wherever I go. :)

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  3. Nancy, I must be the last holdout. My sons keep bugging me to get an iPhone, or any smartphone. I still use a cell phone that allows me to do one thing: call other phones. If and when I finally exit the old-school cellphone room, I'll be sure to turn out the lights. Until then, maybe I'll just call someone. Or not.

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  4. I can't wait until the whole deal can be implanted in my head.

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  5. Implanted in the head..that's a good one, and maybe not so far off! As readers, we have access to more devices and more ways to get our reading material delivered. As writers, we do have more markets for short fiction as James says. My concern is if the readers of the future will have the patience to slog through a novel or if we'll have to feed it to them page by page. This will change the way we write.

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  6. I have been an assumer of technology from the beginning. As far as cell phones, I started off with a 'bag-phone' in the 80s. Couldn't afford a $200 battery for it so it had to stay in my car plugged into the lighter. I'm not an Apple fan, but have used both Blackberry and Android since they came out and couldn't live comfortably without them.

    I have tried the implant thing Jim, while it worked great for reading emails in my head, watching streaming movies caused the back of my eyeballs to itch..way back where you can't reach without surgical instruments. And ever since the 2.74e "BrainPan" OS upgrade was automatically pushed anytime someone uses a microwave near me I involuntarily squawk like a raven and pee my pants.

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  7. Oh, and to answer the actual question: Serialized Fiction will rise again, both in written and audiobook form. And we will make more money on subscriptions than on people buying individual books. That's my prediction.

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  8. Serialized fiction...yes, and it's already being done. I believe the so-called "Cell phone novels" are popular in Japan. But who will make the money--the company that delivers these daily excerpts, or the author who writes them? I sense another middleman here.

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