Award-winning Irish writer Colm Toibin firmly believes the novel will remain fundamentally unchanged by the Internet or other high-tech innovations, a realm in which he admits he is nearly illiterate.
Toibin is a technophobe. He writes with a fountain pen on paper and cannot figure out how to send e-mails by phone. An interview with Reuters on Tuesday was delayed as Toibin fumbled with his cell phone, repeatedly failing to answer it.
Take that Steve Jobs! Your iPad is doomed! Doomed I tell you!
Toibin is not alone, of course:
The authors—Theroux and Govier (a last-minute replacement for Richard Bausch)—were much more concerned that the reading experience and their work would be compromised by e-readers. Govier went so far to argue that books shouldn’t even be made available online because the process devalues her work. Authors deserve to be compensated, we won’t argue that, but such resistance to technology is worrisome. Thankfully, Silver and moderator Stossel, provided a more Internet-friendly point of view, pointing out the marketing, publicity and accessibility benefits of putting books online, despite it’s ability to increase piracy.
The biggest theme of the conversation was that reading on an e-reader is a different experience than reading a book. Most of the panelists argued that the experience of reading a physical book is inherently a better experience (a popular argument throughout the industry right now, but, really, it’s a personal preference and not a universal truth), and a more immersive one. This application of personal preference to an entire audience of readers is problematic. Why assume everyone everywhere wants to read everything in the exact same way? Different readers want different kinds of experiences, and publishers should be creating opportunity for consumers to make that choice.