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Booking Through Thursday: Multimedia?

June 16, 2011

Today’s Booking Through Thursday asks:
With the advent (and growing popularity) of eBooks, I’m seeing more and more articles about how much “better” they can be, because they have the option to be interactive … videos, music, glossaries … all sorts of little extra goodies to help “enhance” your reading experience, rather like listening to the Director’s commentary on a DVD of your favorite movie.
How do you feel about that possibility? Does it excite you in a cutting-edge kind of way? Or does it chill you to the bone because that’s not what reading is ABOUT?

I haven’t decided if it’s ironic that I wrote this post once already this morning… and WordPress mysteriously gobbled up what I’d written. Here it is again.

While I have no problem with the multimedia possibilities of DVDs and the Internet (and I certainly spend more than enough time in the thrall of each of these,) that’s not what books are for.
A novel is about the printed page, or the spoken voice (in the case of audiobooks). That’s it. And your mind, your imagination, does the rest. Expecting noisy technological fripperies from a novel wounds the art of storycraft.
Reading a story feels like a different experience than being entertained by a TV or computer screen. I’m not sure of the science, but I think different parts of the brain are involved.

Discussions about the fate of the book, or the death of the book, and the primacy of the e-reader, worry me. I worry that the craft of storytelling will get lost, swallowed up by market share. I worry that the loss of quietly reading a story would speak to a larger cost in how we relate to each other, or pay attention to the world itself.

However, that said, I can see where an enhanced e-reader experience would be useful. Nonfiction. When I’m researching how to do something, I appreciate having video and lots of pictures available. It’s great for recipes, or learning a new crochet stitch. And I’ve been talking to a friend who’s written a meticulously researched historical narrative. She’s been talking about the idea of supplementing her story with video and recorded interviews, to capture the larger context. And an e-reader experience is perfect for that.

For novels, though… I don’t think multimedia is an “enhancement,” but a really awful idea.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2011 5:58 am

    So it not just Blogger eating posts. AHHHH! Great well thought out answer!

    My Answer

  2. June 16, 2011 6:03 am

    I’ve had that same thing happen lately on Word Press…the post just disappears! So annoying. The things they are adding lately are slowing things down and interfering…that’s what I think. (And I don’t like this new commenting box…slow!).

    Which is kind of like our topic today. Sometimes advances only complicate everything. As much as I appreciate them, they do come with their glitches, etc.


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